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Relationship found between creatine in the brain and recovery from traumatic stress

A new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders provides preliminary evidence that creatine levels in a specific region of the brain may play a role in recovery from traumatic events. The study, conducted among a small group of U.S. veterans, suggests that higher levels of creatine are associated with better recovery from stress caused by traumatic experiences.

The study was motivated by the crucial need to understand why some people recover from traumatic events while others develop lasting psychological conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traditional research has often focused on the psychological and environmental factors contributing to PTSD, but there is growing interest in the biological and neurochemical underpinnings that may predispose individuals to the long-term consequences of trauma or protect them from long-term consequences of trauma.

PTSD is a mental health problem that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/combat, rape or any other violent personal assault.

People with PTSD may have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that linger long after the traumatic event has passed. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; feeling sadness, fear or anger; and feeling detached or distant from others.

PTSD is characterized by symptoms that disrupt daily functioning, and these symptoms are grouped into categories: reliving the trauma, avoiding reminders of the trauma, negative changes in thoughts and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Creatine is an organic compound that plays a crucial role in the energy production of cells. It is primarily found in muscle and brain tissue where it helps maintain energy supply.

Creatine allows the regeneration of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main energy carrier in cells, essential for maintaining cellular function and integrity. Researchers hypothesized that creatine levels in the brain might influence an individual’s ability to recover from trauma by affecting energy availability in critical regions of the brain.

To explore the relationship between brain creatine concentrations and recovery from traumatic stress, researchers performed brain scans on a group of 25 U.S. veterans recruited from the Intermountain West region of the United States.

Upon enrollment, participants completed a series of questionnaires to collect data on their demographics, mental health status, and history of traumatic events. For the neuroimaging component, the researchers used 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS), a specialized type of MRI that can measure the concentration of brain chemicals, such as creatine, in specific regions of the brain. The focus was on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a key area involved in emotional regulation and stress response.

Researchers found that veterans with higher creatine levels in the ACC reported greater reductions in stress over time since their most traumatic event. This suggests that creatine may play a role in the brain’s ability to recover from trauma.

Interestingly, researchers found no significant relationship between creatine levels and the number of traumatic events experienced or current severity of PTSD symptoms, as measured by the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5. This indicates that while creatine may influence the recovery process after trauma, it does not necessarily correlate with the initial response to trauma or the ongoing severity of PTSD symptoms.

Additionally, researchers examined whether creatine levels differed between those who took medications (such as antidepressants and other psychiatric medications) and those who did not take medications. They found no significant differences in creatine levels based on medication use, suggesting that the observed effects of creatine on stress recovery were not confounded by these medications.

The study, however, has several limitations. The sample size was relatively small and participants were predominantly male veterans, which may limit the generalizability of the results. Additionally, the study relied on participants’ retrospective reports of their stress levels, which could be subject to bias.

Future research could include a larger, more diverse population and use longitudinal studies to track changes in creatine levels over time after traumatic events. Expanding research to clinical samples with more severe PTSD symptoms could also provide deeper insights.

“Despite limitations, the present study provides compelling preliminary evidence that Cr concentrations in the ACC are related to recovery from traumatic life events. If replicated in larger samples, (creatine levels) could show promise as a new intervention target to improve mental health outcomes after exposure to traumatic life events », concluded the researchers.

The study titled “Creatine concentration in the anterior cingulate cortex is associated with enhanced recovery from stress following traumatic events: preliminary evidence from a U.S. veteran sample” was authored by James R. Yancey, Jiyoung Ma , Punitha Subramaniam, Chelsea N. Carson, Erin. C. McGlade, Deborah A. Yurgelun-Todd, and Perry F. Renshaw.

News Source : www.psypost.org
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