Neurobiological basis for key symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder found by brain imaging research
In a novel brain-imaging study among trauma victims, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have linked an opioid receptor in the brain — associated with emotions — to a narrow cluster of trauma symptoms, including sadness, emotional detachment and listlessness.
Kappa opioid receptors bind a potent natural opioid known as dynorphin, which is released by the body during times of stress to help relieve dysphoria or numbing.
Chronic exposure to stress, such as the case with PTSD, taxes kappa opioid receptors, however, causing the receptors to retract inside cells, leaving dynorphin without a place to dock. As a result, patients can experience dysphoria, characterized by feelings of hopelessness, detachment and emotional unease. (emphasis added)
What a powerful metaphorical relationship between what is happening in the brain to these kappa opioid receptors and the behavioural response. This might well be a neuroscience nugget that helps someone struggling with PTSD or other responses to chronic stress (pain?) understand and ground their experience and feelings of withdrawal from society and life.