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Keith A. Young, PhD

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science
Texas A&M Health Science Center
Central Texas Veterans Health Care System
Temple, Texas

Stress and the Pathophysiology of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Dr. Young leads research efforts to understand susceptibility to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Neuropsychiatry Research Program of the Texas A&M HSC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science has been performing research into serious mental conditions for over 15 years, recently focusing on stress-related disorders in military veterans. The lab specializes in human brain molecular, anatomical, and genetic studies using stereological techniques and focusing on the thalamus. The lab is currently pursuing investigations of the role of subcortical circuits in stress responses and PTSD. Dr. Young’s team studies the genetic factors associated with neurological disorders such as autism, depression, schizophrenia and PTSD. For example, Dr. Young helps lead a national consortium to collect PTSD brains and is a member of the steering committee of the newly formed Veterans Administration (VA) National PTSD Brain Bank. He is a PI in the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP), which is performing genetic and epigenetic research on pre and post deployment samples from over 4,500 active-duty troops at Fort Hood and on post-mortem PTSD brain samples. Dr. Young is also a co-investigator on genetic studies of 500 veterans enrolled in VA longitudinal studies. “In one of the first studies of PTSD brain, we have found anatomical and molecular evidence for loss of synaptic and neuronal elements in the orbitofrontal cortex that is consistent with animal models of severe stress. Cortical pathophysiology may be the end result of a serotonergic genetic predisposition to PTSD, related to a developmental enlargement of the pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus. Since this nucleus is a major node in an ancient circuit controlling defensive and escape behaviors, our working hypothesis is that this anatomical enhancement alters responses to environmental signals, contributing to poor recovery from post-traumatic stress.”