I recently received some feedback on training materials I put together, about how PTSD develops after a combat trauma. I had mentioned that classical conditioning explains how stimuli that occur in close proximity can become associated, resulting in conditioned responses. Of course, I mentioned Pavlov, because, dogs! Right? I might also have mentioned that our family dog salivates and does a little happy dance right on cue every morning when I grind the coffee, just before I walk over and scoop her food into the dish.
Blog posts with the tag "Neuroscience"
Since 2001, more than 2.6 million U.S. military personnel have been deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. Between 2001 and 2016, more than 350,000 cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) have been diagnosed in active duty Service members, most of which are concussive TBI (cTBI), also known as mild TBI.
The much-anticipated movie “Concussion” was released on Christmas Day, and already there is Oscar Award talk for Will Smith, who plays the role of Dr. Bennet Omalu. It was Dr. Omalu who discovered the tragic progressive degenerative effects of years of multiple concussions in NFL players, which he named CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). The film highlights the NFL’s initial response of anger and denial. Indeed, since Dr. Omalu’s discovery in 2002, the NFL has experienced lawsuits, exposés, and finger-pointing in general.
More and more people are becoming aware of the impact of smartphones, tablets, and easy Internet access on our ability to think, maintain relationships, and remain productive. It has even been proposed that overuse of technological media can change our brains structurally in ways that will, over time, rob us of the ability to think deeply and utilize our cognitive horsepower! This is a controversial topic, and undoubtedly people will have varying opinions, but no one can argue that various forms of technology are changing how we interact with each other. So, how does this apply to mental health, and the military specifically? Well, we know that healthy relationships contribute to good mental health, and conversely, troubled relationships create risk for mental health problems. Perhaps some of today’s relationship woes and mental health problems are a by-product of our increasing use of technological gadgets.
To learn more about this possibility in a military context, I interviewed Lt. Col. Kirk Rowe, an Air Force neuropsychologist at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
Have you had the experience of patients who can’t seem to stop recycling their negative thoughts, ones who make statements like, “My life is just a series of bad events.” and “I can’t change, I’m just hardwired that way.”? As a clinician, I have often revisited the question of “Can people change?” and if they do, how? This has elicited a long-time personal theory that people maintain an initial “knee-jerk” response when triggered, but with the use of therapeutic tools, life experiences and other methods they can learn to be aware of these “old” responses and consciously, and many times within seconds, move toward a healthier, more positive response.