September 6, 2009

Brain scans help prevent soldier suicide

Israeli researchers say brain profiling may help detect soldiers at risk for suicide.

The Tel Aviv University study of 50 Israeli soldiers, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to forecast which soldiers might be vulnerable to stress symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and therefore at more risk for suicide.

Looking at the part of the brain called the amygdala, we were able to predict how many stress symptoms of PTSD an individual soldier would develop, study leader Talma Hendler says in a statement.

Hendler says the fMRI should not be used prejudicially to weed soldiers from certain units, but to give specialists a new set of clues as to how to treat soldiers early and effectively.

This tool can help provide tailored therapy to the afflicted and at a very early stage could identify the extreme cases that might otherwise go unnoticed, Hendler says.