Dr. Tom Kash, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, has received a Department of Defense grant award to study post-traumatic stress disorder and the underlying factors as to why some soldiers are more resilient than others in response to similar stressful and traumatic events. The title of Dr. Kash's grant proposal is "Neuronal targets mediating active stress coping." His award is in the amount of $1,243,435 for 4 years. His collaborator on the project is Andrew Holmes, PhD, Section Chief, Principal Investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIH.
From the public abstract:
"Exposure to stress is a major risk factor for many types of neuropsychiatric disease, and is a defining feature of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, the risk for PTSD varies considerably between individuals, and different people can have very different reactions to even similar traumatic events. Indeed, while a significant proportion of soldiers serving in Operations Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom exhibit symptoms of PTSD, many do not. This implies that some individuals are susceptible to the deleterious impact of stress, while others are resilient. Despite being the subject of enormous research efforts, the genetic and neurobiological factors that underlie stress susceptibility and resilience remain poorly understood. This is partly because studying these factors in human populations is extremely difficult given the myriad differences between individuals in brain function, genetics and life history. Animal models, and mouse models in particular, are an extremely powerful tool for studying the neural and molecular basis of stress susceptibility."
More specifically, the goal of Dr. Kash's proposal is to systematically study whether differential stress responsivity in different strains of mice is mediated by either of two major components of the glutamate system in the amygdala (N-methyl-D-aspartate and kainate receptors).
"The results obtained would provide important new insight into the neurobiology of stress susceptibility and resilience. The wider implications would be that
- at-risk soldiers could be screened for risk, via testing for at-risk gene variants and biomarkers, or neuroimaging for patterns of amygdala activation indicative of risk,
- novel drug treatments could be developed that mitigate maladaptive reactions to trauma and even promote pro-active coping responses to stress.
This proposal has the potential to significantly impact the prophylactic and palliative care of military populations."