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Biological Mechanism of Traumatic Stress Response

Trauma exposure goes hand in hand with biological reactions. The most prevalent adverse consequence of trauma is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is believed that modulation of biological stress responses underlies PTSD development.

This entry describes biological mechanisms of the traumatic stress response, including an explanation of the stress system and biological parameters in the acute and chronic phase after trauma related to PTSD. Also noted are future directions for research.

The Biological Stress System

The stress system is activated when the subject's environment is perceived as threatening. Sensory environmental cues reach the brain and are processed by the amygdala, important in the brain's “fear circuitry.” In case of danger, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) are activated through neural signaling, producing multiple effects. ...

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