War changes human brain structure, study finds

War changes human brain structure, study finds

Research by Dutch scientists shows that war can change the structure of the human brain.

Scientists from the Radboud University in Nijmegen examined 36 soldiers who came back from a war zone in Afghanistan. Scans of their brains showed an increased activity in an area called amygdala. This part of the brain has an important role in the process of developing emotions.

It took one year before the activity in the amygdala was back to its normal level. Guido van Wingen, head of the research team, doesn`t rule out the possibility that the experiences cause long-term effects to the amygdala. He describes the amygdala as an `alarm centre`. It’s likely that the war experiences change the way that the amygdala is being regulated. It is not yet clear how this will influence future reactions of the brain to new stressful situations.

None of the examined soldiers suffered from post-traumatic stress. The military men that exclusively worked in the barracks, and not on the actual battlefield, did not show increased activity in the amygdala. The results of the research project will be published in the scientific magazine “Molecular Psychiatry”.

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