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New Brain Scans Can Spot PTSD

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 3 years ago | from the just-call-it-shellshock-again dept.

The Military 107

Neuroscientists think they may have found a scientific method to identify post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using a brain imaging method called magnetoencephalography (MEG). In the test study, the scientists studied 74 vets with PTSD and 250 civilians without and were able to spot the PTSD sufferers with 90% accuracy. "MEG machines are a fast, sensitive and accurate way to measure electric activity in the brain. Whereas CT scans and MRIs record brain signals every few seconds, MEGs can do it by the millisecond, catching biomarkers and brain activity that the other tests inevitably miss. The study could be a breakthrough for the military, who've been scrambling to address a surge in post-traumatic symptoms among newly returning vets. Right now, troops are evaluated by mental health experts, but diagnosis is a crap-shoot: symptoms can take years to show up, and vary from person to person, even among those exposed to the same traumas. The Pentagon's already been pushing for more objective, systematized diagnosis tools, like portable at-home sleep monitors and genetic testing to detect PTSD vulnerability. They've even launched a program to create stress-mitigating pharmaceuticals."

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107 comments

what about the other 10% (2, Informative)

dobedobedew (663137) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862736)

So if you are in the 10% that doesn't get detected you're SOL? I hope they can increase the accuracy of this.

Re:what about the other 10% (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30862826)

scan my balls

Re:what about the other 10% (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30865808)

Balls not detected. Maybe the resolution of the scanner isn't fine enough.

Re:what about the other 10% (2, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862832)

the other 10% are just faking it for the VA benefits.

Re:what about the other 10% (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863246)

Not for nothing, but I went 20 years without being diagnosed. I understand the attempt at humor, but it isn't funny to me.

PTSD is not just some dude screaming "incoming" and diving under the table at Thanksgiving. It has a measurable effect upon every decision in a person's life. Just stepping into a restaurant is a tense and fearful experience that can last for hours. Hours in which I must scan every person coming into the room for potential threats, monitor the exits, sit so that no one can approach me without my knowing. My family knows that to catch my unawares is, at the very best, a chance to have me yell at them as if they'd done something wrong by entering the same room without announcing themselves.

When I head into wallmart, I have to plan my route to minimize the stress, I use weird checkout methods, like buying a box of vitamins and then doing my checkout at the pharmacy to avoid the lines where I am vulnerable to attack. For 20 years I thought that everyone looked between the parked cars as they walked down the street, planned the move to cover in case there was gunfire, looked at every window and rooftop for snipers. I didn't realize that what I took for survival instinct was way beyond what almost everyone else did to safe guard themselves. I have been emotionally removed from my daughter's entire life, I have no emotional reaction to the suffering of others, as I instinctively believe that it is their fault for not being ready to deal with whatever the situation.

If this technology can help get people diagnosed and in a proper treatment regimen, then it is a worth while venture. A 10% miss beats 40% (http://ajol.info/index.php/ajpsy/article/viewFile/30263/30480)[pdf]

I for one, salute our new MEG Overloards

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863764)

No mod points today, so I just want to say thank you for your informative and sobering post.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

Loopy (41728) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864776)

I can confirm this. My brother has PTSD and it has broad-ranging impacts on so many things he does that there is no such thing as "normal" for him anymore. And he's still one of the most sane people I know. If this will get them to the point where they can quickly confirm the obvious cases so that the doctors are freed up to be more thorough with the borderline folks, I think that would be a great thing.

Re:what about the other 10% (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30864906)

The first step is recognizing that you have a problem. Well done.

The next step isn't as easy, but you should be able to make a full recovery with some counseling and a concerted effort to let people surprise you.

Re:what about the other 10% (2, Interesting)

MmmmAqua (613624) | more than 3 years ago | (#30865012)

I'm with you. It has only been five years for me, but a more objective assessment would have helped me a great deal.

I had a four-year fight with the VA to get service-connected for PTSD. After indisputable records of many, many combat stressors, four years of the VA mental health clinical team regularly putting full, five-axis PTSD diagnoses in their chart notes, and my career devolving from well-paid Solaris systems engineer to unemployment, my claims and appeals were denied by bureaucrats who had never seen me in person.

I did finally get the service connection, but the years of bureaucrats telling me I had no problems made my symptoms worse, and my life is a shambles because of it. This technology could have been a near-literal life-saver for me; I hope it proves to be so for future veterans.

p.s. - if you haven't already, try a symptom management group with the VA. The class I attended was very helpful for me. The seven or eight Vietnam vets and the two WWII vets in the class said the same after the last session.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 3 years ago | (#30865148)

I understand the other measures, but how does checking out in the pharmacy make you less vulnerable to attack?

Re:what about the other 10% (2, Interesting)

moj0joj0 (1119977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30866088)

The pharmacy is a good one, but the jewelry counter (unless it is right out in the open) or automotive center is also good.

--The location of the pharmacy for one, usually in a less traveled section of the store.
--Less people check out there for two, so there are fewer eyes on you as you are getting your stuff checked out.
--It usually has at least some soft cover or concealment for three.
--Also, it is an unexpected location to be checking out (never take the same route twice).

Thank you for sharing your story (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869476)

Hi.

Thank you for sharing your story. I can't imagine what other difficulties you're going through besides the one you've mentioned, but I'm taking a wild guess here: it isn't easy being you.

And I don't think I can say anything other than this: I wish you the best of luck in living a happy, fulfilling live, whatever that means to you, and I hope your limitations won't get too much in the way of that.

Re:what about the other 10% (5, Insightful)

Ann O'Nymous-Coward (460094) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862834)

IF they can really achieve 90% detection rate (and that's a huge if), then that'd be hugely impressive.

FYI, Mammograms only have roughly an 80% chance of detecting breast cancer. http://breastscreening.cancer.gov/data/performance/diagnostic/rate_age_time.html [cancer.gov]

Rates of detection of other cancers are often much worse. And rates of early detection (as opposed to self-report) of mental illnesses are worse again.

Re:what about the other 10% (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30862916)

An interesting point is that they don't distinguish in any of TFAs whether they're talking false negatives, false positives, or a combination. Separate rates would matter.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

Ann O'Nymous-Coward (460094) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863012)

That IS a very interesting point indeed. It's impossible to know how effective any detection system is, without knowing false alarm rate as well as hit rate.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 3 years ago | (#30865090)

Another thing I'm curious about (I expect it's probably addressed in the paper) is that they're comparing military personnel with PTSD against civilians without PTSD. Did they include any military personnel without PTSD, or civilians with PTSD? I would not be surprised if simply being in the military (I.e. the different discipline, training, lifestyle, experiences, etc... ) would alter the brain in a measurable way, and they would have to be careful that that isn't what they're seeing.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

philwubios (698976) | more than 4 years ago | (#30869754)

Well, I tracked down the actual article and the accuracy is actually quite overstated. One of the problems in creating diagnostic tests is setting all of the dials to optimize performance on the particular dataset. The 90% rate is an overall rate. Note that if you did something stupid like saying no one had PTSD then you would be right in their dataset 250/324 = 77% of the time. Their optimized performance (which would probably never be repeated in another dataset) produces a lot of false positives (31/103 = 30%). While PTSD is a very important area and this study demonstrates some differences in brain activity between those with PTSD and those without which demonstrates it is a real diagnosis, it is not a fool-proof diagnostic technique.

Re:what about the other 10% (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862850)

Its not the only diagnostic tool in the kit. In fact you probably wouldn't even encounter this device if you weren't showing some symptoms.

90% of anything detected by brain imaging is pretty amazing, since even tumors can't always be spotted.

Re:what about the other 10% (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862864)

Anybody who would use the test, in its current form, as an automated "confirm/deny" mechanism deserves a punch in the face. However, the establishment of a fairly reliable correlation between a psychological condition that could previously only be diagnosed subjectively("subjectively" in the sense that the patient has to introspect and report symptoms for a diagnosis to be made, not in the "Oh, its just subjective, it must just be you" sense) and an objectively measurable electrical phenomenon is pretty cool.

It is more or less a commonplace, for anybody not deeply in the grips of some metaphysical or dualist theory, that psychological phenomena must have material correlates; but actually hunting them down and making them useful is fairly tricky work.

WTF Troll Mod? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863214)

Seriously, Slashdot moderation has become a wretched hive of reactionary scum who downmod anything they don't want to hear. The parent post is far from being a troll.

Re:WTF Troll Mod? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30866854)

it is insensitive to those of us who are combat vets with PTSD to joke about it. Let me put it another way. I have a friend at the VA who tells me he has a difficult time not taking out some crass people he doesn't like. His rational? What's one or two more when you have hundreds of kills. If you want, i would trade you my PTSD and the consequences of it for the ability to earn a paycheck as a programmer again. I Made much better money and didn't have to worry about some arse joking about my illness.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

PFactor (135319) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863256)

I'm gonna have to agree with Spun. Whoever meta-moderates this thread needs to look into whoever labeled the parent post "troll".

Re:what about the other 10% (2, Insightful)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863468)

You're absolutely right. In fact, I was going to use some of my mod points to do just that - mark him as a troll. But I re-read and think his points are valid and even insightful (sans the punch-in-the-face component.) But, the poor choice of moderation points applies to ArsonSmith's posting as well. While his attempt may be at humor, it wasn't funny. It was the equivalent of posting a comment to a story about some new test being able to detect HIV early on and saying, "Hey! At least now they'll know your insurance should cover it before you die." I've spent a lot of time talking with folks who work for me who went through "shock and awe" and battles before and since. Having them talk to me about the dreams they have of friends who get blown up as they stand next to them - friends who have actually come home and are doing fine - is hardly a part of my day about which I'd make jokes.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865298)

People mod prison rape up all the time. Some folks find shit funny that you don't find funny. It happens.

Re:what about the other 10% (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863358)

    I believe that was 10% incorrectly. So, we could assume it to be:

10% of the patients tested positive and did NOT have PTSD
10% of the patients tested negative but DID have PTSD
or even.
10% did not believe they had PTSD, but actually did.

    They'll need a much better sample group to get some real numbers with. 10% is 30 people. They could have been wrong, undiagnosed previously, or lied for whatever reason. Some people don't want to talk about their pains. Our inner demons are best kept inside.

Re:what about the other 10% (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30865476)

No, hence the continued importance of clinical evaluation in medicine.

Error in TFS: (3, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862776)

From TFS:

using a brain imaging method call magnetoencephalography (MEG)

> line 1: method magnetoencephalography(java/lang/String;) not found

Re:Error in TFS: (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868212)

also:
> line 1: Constant MEG not defined.
> Did you mean:
  * Methylecgonidine, a byproduct of smoked crack cocaine
  * Madras Engineer Group — a regiment of the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army
  * Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline
  * MEG, the NYSE stock ticker symbol for Media General
  * Midland Examining Group, a defunct examination board in the UK
  * Mono ethylene glycol, a chemical compound widely used as an automotive antifreeze
  * Motionless electromagnetic generator, a purported perpetual motion machine
  * Multiple exciton generation
  * MEG, an album by R&B singer Megan Rochell
  * MEG, the airport code for Malange Airport in Angola
>

Summer's Eve? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30862782)

Not a cure, but man o man it helps!

TSA interested in full brain scans (1)

Orga (1720130) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862788)

MEGs can do it by the millisecond, catching biomarkers and brain activity that the other tests inevitably miss. How long until we have these in our airports?

Re:TSA interested in full brain scans (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862874)

Or more on point, how long till there is an effective treatment for something that manifests itself with brain changes that can't be measured in seconds.

False positives (2, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862790)

Spotting 100% is easy: you just need a machine with a blinking light that says "PTSD". Unfortunately that puts a lot of healthy people in therapy.

Nobody expects Wired to figure that out, but the original press release [eurekalert.org] (scavenged from the array of irrelevant links) doesn't say, either.

I assume that the actual article (in the Journal of Neural Engineering) actually says something about it. Anybody got a subscription?

Re:False positives (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862868)

It sounds a lot like they want to spot people who don't think they have PTSD, as opposed to validating claims by those that say they do. If you are willing to say you have PTSD, it needs to be taken seriously regardless of how your brain looks. However, if you have effects of PTSD that haven't manifested yet, they want to have a better chance at finding that out to treat it early on. In the case of a false positive and you don't really have PTSD, just take the opportunity to get really well acquainted with your therapist.

Re:False positives (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863178)

just take the opportunity to get really well acquainted with your therapist.

Assuming you can get one. If the false-positive rate is too high, it means you have a lot of people in treatment unnecessarily, taking time and resources away from those who really do need help.

I imagine that the original article gives the false-positive rate and that it's acceptably low. I'm just irked about the quality of science reporting that doesn't ask these questions, which should be the first thing on a scientist's mind.

Re:False positives (4, Informative)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864328)

Sure, My university has a subscription. Let me give you the numbers:

Test subjects:
All 75 test group members had confirmed PTSD as the primary diagnosis, using the standard structured clinical interviews for PTSD. There were many variations as to cause of PTSD some from combat others from before they became soldiers. 69 test subjects were male, and 5 were women.

Control group:
250 members from the general public in the same age range as the test subjects. 151 men, 49 women.
Complete nurological histories, and multiple interview examinations were performed to help exclude general public members with latent PTSD.

The test with the paramters used by the team had the following results:

72 true positives.
2 false negatives.
31 false positives.
219 true negatives.

According to the paper this is
97.3% Sensitivity
87.6% Specificity
92.4% Accuracy
Chi squared-statistic: 189.8
P value: .001
phi coefficient: .765
odds ratio: 254.3

Re:False positives (1)

winwar (114053) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865846)

Wow. The numbers suck worse than I thought.

31 false positives!?!

Is it really cheaper (and better) to use an expensive test to screen and use specialists to weed out the false positives?

Is the military culture really that bad? Is the mental health services and people really that poor?

I realize that this is a brand new test but if it is this bad on a known population with existing symptoms it is not likely to be useful on people without symptoms or with newly emerging symptoms. Worthy of research but the reporters should be sent into combat with dowsing rods to detect mines. In short, all hype, no substance.

Re:False positives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30866152)

75 test group members ... 69 test subjects were male, and 5 were women.

Does not compute!

Re:False positives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30870238)

you dont need a subscription its available on line for thirty days......its a tech report....I have a copy....downloaded from the site from the january on line journal of neuroimaging news....google it...cause your not going to get it from me.....about my copy...it goes to a psych type and we are building a large library for firefighterveterans who are ptsd and who need the help....this site is excellent...and needs to keep pushing back at the system..... ....now ..... about va benefits etc....congress gave sumthun like 106 billion dollars to va last year for vets and their needs. The V.A. has purchased some years ago a program with mitigation of insurance payout loss from an outfit called McKinsey and Company....look them up on the internet.....Mckinsey hires the top MBA grads from Ivy Leagues....In a one to one session with a group of them they were asked to solve the problem of insurance pay outs and they ended up writting a twelve thousand five hundred page algorythm power point which all insurance compannies in america and the Workers Compensation Boards and......yes folks the V.A. purchased.... .....its what McKinsey does best.....solve business corporate problems... .....the test is am I talking through my butt....well...you do the homework...look up McKinsey on google....then go find them out of an insurance law claim from Texas between a lady who was not getting paid out from her motor vehicle accident so....she sued...Allstate Insurance.....her legal team argued the McKinsey thing and they won..(cause they did their homework)...the threads are on the internet.......

Our firefighterveterans are being deinied ptsd claims......and we are advocating for them......and yes....it sucks...but that is life in corporate business free enterprise america......and that is why we have courts and the constatution.....go figure... .....so....web site for firefighterveteran ptsd information is: firefighterveteran.com Project is called F.I.R.S.T. S.T.E.P. H.O.P.E. we have had over 310 thousand hits from firefighters over the last two and a half years....yes we are on the path....but it is slow....inforation to west coast post trauma retreat is located on left side of front page......so....Military PTSD and FireFighter PTSD..... ....the body counts and the risks....all there....

We at North American Fire Fighter Veterans Network thank God and the Constatution and the military veterans of the Vietnam Veterans of America who have helped us to steer in the direction needed. .... Special Thanks To Viet Vet: 1St Sgt Bob Collins of the 101St Airborne in Vietnam.......Bobby saved me from suicide for a reason...and he led me to the path of lite and help with it....

Shannon H. Pennington PTSD firefighterveteran
26 year I.A.F.F. (International Association of Firefighters) full time paid professional
Board Certified in Stress Management
American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress
Member National Center for Crisis Management
Commak New York, United States of America

Senior Chief, North American Fire Fighter Veterans Network
F.I.R.S.T. S.T.E.P. H.O.P.E.
care for the caregivers
On the web: firefighterveteran.com

well, we have the nexus one android from google (0, Offtopic)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862808)

so the nexus six can't be far off

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nexus_Six [wikipedia.org]

and now, with this article, we have the invention of the voight-kampff machine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voight-Kampff_machine [wikipedia.org]

blade runner future, here we come!

when do we get japanese geisha noodle commercials with japanese classical music projected onto blimps?

Possible fault in the sample group (5, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862812)

"scientists studied 74 vets with PTSD and 250 civilians "

Is it possible that they aren't spotting PTSD but a wiring from a soldier? I am a civillian with NO military experience, but I do hang around several soldiers and police officers. Each group has similar mannerisms and they have ALL had similar experiences within that group (basic training for the green guys, the academy for the blue ones). I see a good chance that this new scan could be picking that up.

A more valid group would be:
  - some vets without PTSD
  - some vets with PTSD
  - some civillians with PTSD
  - some civillians without PTSD

Of those four groups some significant correlation would be helpful too. For example a set of soldiers from Afghanistan with and without PTSD. A set of civillians that had been through the same or similar trauma (say armed robbery or 9/11 or plane accident). Breaking it down by age would also be useful, a Vietnam veteran who has had a few years either with or without treatment would be a lot different than a recent return home from the Sandbox.

Re:Possible fault in the sample group (2, Interesting)

tonyreadsnews (1134939) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863016)

Also,

symptoms can take years to show up

Would the machine be able to tell either? It could be that the brain changes over time (as a person relives the trauma) that makes the symptoms visible.

Re:Possible fault in the sample group (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863152)

Is it possible that they aren't spotting PTSD but a wiring from a soldier?

it's the killing cortex

Re:Possible fault in the sample group (3, Interesting)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863364)

These are valid concerns.

The study was published in J. Neural Engineering which, regrettably, my institution does not have a subscription to, so can't be as well-informed as I'd like, unfortunately. Nevertheless, the research was headed by Dr. Apostolos Gerogropoulos, whom I know professionally and by his research publications. Now, Dr. Georgopoulos is no fool. His research team certainly must have thought about these potential issues. There's a hint at why the study might be considered valid despite what at first blush seems like a lack of proper controls in the press release: "the researchers also are able to judge the severity of how much [subjects with PTSD] are suffering," Proper controls (ie, soldiers without PTSD) are necessary, but if there's a good correlation between the observed MEG phenomena and the strength of clinical findings, then maybe the study really has discovered something interesting.

Re:Possible fault in the sample group (1)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863612)

The article even explicitly says:

Next up, the researchers want to evaluate 500 vets, alongside 500 civilians, to further validate their findings.

It sounds like a case of "well we didn't have enough grant money to do this study properly this time around, but our results still look promising! I'm sure some more grant money would give really conclusive results! *waggles eyebrows suggestively*"

Re:Possible fault in the sample group (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30864680)

The article even explicitly says:

Next up, the researchers want to evaluate 500 vets, alongside 500 civilians, to further validate their findings.

It sounds like a case of "well we didn't have enough grant money to do this study properly..."

Rightly or wrongly, there's an absolute boatload of money being thrown at the US military. If researchers wants a piece of that gravy train, they're going to have to make it mostly about the military - if it started to look like they were helping victims of domestic violence with PTSD, for example, the Republicans would be on them like pit bulls on a granny.

Re:Possible fault in the sample group (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864924)

Sorry, all I got out of that was, "He's my buddy, he wouldn't miss something obvious like that."

Science only works to the extent that such defenses are insufficient.

civilian PTSD from FBI abuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30864050)

I may have PTSD from aggressive FBI+DEA domestic surveillance activities.

Armed robbery or a plane accident wouldn't bother me, but all those damn government spooks following me around was freakin' traumatic!

Getting raided ain't so bad psychologically, but thinking you're going to get raided in the early morning hours and dragged off to jail is stressful as hell!

(suspected criminal hacker, known drug dealer... alleged "anarchist" -- HEH)

Re:civilian PTSD from FBI abuses (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864668)

Well, there is a good argument FOR FBI+DEA domestic surveillance activities. That means they work! Still not okay with it, but thank you for easing my concern about them a bit.

Re:civilian PTSD from FBI abuses (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865950)

That's not PTSD, that's schizophrenia.

Not nearly "scientific" enough ... (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864780)

I was going make a related point, but didn't want to be redundant, so I'm piggybacking on your post. My point is tangenial to yours. PTSD is not exclusive to the Military. Rape victims often have it, as one example of many. It is a non-linearity in the precognitive response mechanism of the brain (the Amygdala.) Furthermore, you can be a civilian who has it and go undiagnosed for your entire life. Typically the memories related to the cause of the PTSD are suppressed to the subconscious, and the sufferer only becomes conscious of them through various techniques for accessing the subconscious, including therapy, hypnotism, and meditation. Seperating them this way is a flaw on many levels including but not limited to the one you identified.

They need to compare those with PTSD to those without it, preferably with none of them having undergone the brainwashing/trauma of boot camp of any kind, Police, Military or other. Then they need to compensate for the fact that some "false positives" will not be false positives at all. If it really works they will see "false positives" when those affected by PTSD but undiagnosed are tested.

Drugging our warriors now? (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862866)

They've even launched a program to create stress-mitigating pharmaceuticals.

Sounds like something out of ST:TNG from the Q trial in the second episode. There is a drug available that helps mitigate the stress from a traumatic episode that was being tested a few years ago. I'm wondering if it's the same drug.

Either way, I think the way the gov't is treating our wounded vets is horrible. I really hope that the new test helps out better than what they're doing now.

Re:Drugging our warriors now? (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863040)

"They've even launched a program to create stress-mitigating pharmaceuticals." Translation: No patents on Morphine.

Re:Drugging our warriors now? (1)

Dana Larsen (1707334) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863206)

MDMA, better known as "Ecstasy", is being researched [maps.org] for use in treating PTSD.

But since the patent on MDMA has expired, and it needs only to be used a limited number of times instead of on an ongoing basis, it is not going to profitable for any pharmaceutical company.

So the group trying to get MDMA through the 10 year, $10 million, program of clinical trials is a non-profit group which promotes better access to psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes.

Marijuana has also been shown to be more successful in treating PTSD [salem-news.com] than many standard pharmaceuticals.

It would be interesting indeed if militaries around the world started giving their vets MDMA and marijuana once they have returned home from battle.

Re:Drugging our warriors now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30864704)

That might actually help the US Army with it's recruitment problems.

Re:Drugging our warriors now? (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864822)

"It would be interesting indeed if militaries around the world started giving their vets MDMA and marijuana once they have returned home from battle."

I was thinking exactly the same thing.

The problem is exactly as you stated. The FDA approval process will be the biggest hurdle as everyone from public policing entities to the Big Pharma will fight it tooth and nail as they cannot make any money from either drug. They tried with Marinol, but for some reason, it doesn't have the same effects as natural THC, and in many cases, actually makes the person ill (think thalidomide).

It may be that since we are talking about the military here, they might have some means of fast-tracking such things, but the uphill battle against special interests will be a tough one that no amount of military hardware will help with (although, I must admit, it would be entertaining to see them try...the hardware, that is. On special interest groups).

In some cases, ground troops are already given amphetamines for "alertness", not to treat ADD, so they got around the legal/FDA drug restrictions in place there. Why couldn't they do it with other drugs?
It would certainly lend some legitimacy to medical marijuana if the military suddenly started using it.

Alas, I doubt it will happen. Big Pharma would rather nobody benefits from it rather then them not make money from the situation.

This line from the Wikipedia entry for THC caught my eye...

"It also has anti-emetic properties, and also may reduce aggression in certain subjects."

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't spousal abuse one of the biggest problems with PTSD? A joint might fix that? But then again, when you are trying to maintain a force that can KILL effectively, a reduction in aggression is probably not a good idea.

So, what were we talking about?

Re:Drugging our warriors now? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863630)

Either way, I think the way the gov't is treating our wounded vets is horrible.

Wounded or not, the government has always treated veterans like shit. I have friends who have to go to VA hospitals, and from what they say those hospitals are horrible.

correlation != causation (-1, Troll)

mary_will_grow (466638) | more than 3 years ago | (#30862876)

> studied 74 vets with PTSD and 250 civilians without

Is this really a PTSD detector? Or a vet detector?

Perhaps it smells the blood on their hands. :)

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863034)

Anti-military much?

Not every Vet has killed but many have been through those situations that can cause PTSD.

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863584)

No, the OP is correct, it is very hard to get the smell of your friend's blood off of you, particularly brain matter for some reason.

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863998)

Burn in hell fucker

could this be used to find (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30862940)

PPTSD
"Pre"-post traumatic stress disorder.

Therapy for those affected by PTSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863006)

EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) [emofree.com] is one of the most successful therapies for PTSD [emofree.com] , Vietnam veterans who had been suffering from PTSD for decades were able to free themselves of PTSD within days with EFT. If you or someone you know is affected by PTSD, let them know about EFT, almost everyone can learn EFT in less than 15 minutes for free [emofree.com] and they can then use it on their own without having to share the horrible memories with a therapist or anyone else.

EFT introduction video [youtube.com] .

Sorry to go slightly off-topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863038)

But from TFA,

Neuroscientists Say Brain Scans Can Spot PTSD [wired.com]

Did anyone else first think "The Ghostbusters" when they saw the four silhouettes? That totally freaked me out for a few seconds.

Oblig. Wikipedia Link (1)

MattskEE (925706) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863058)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetoencephalography [wikipedia.org]

The key difference from other imaging technologies is that this is completely passive, it directly measures magnetic fields created by activity in your brain. To get accurate results with such tiny fields, it must be done in a magnetically shielded room with a large number of sensitive sensors.

Re:Oblig. Wikipedia Link (1)

Sheikh_Nim (1727558) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863402)

Actually EEG is also completely passive, and you don't need to be in a magnetically shielded room.

they need a scan that can spot faggots (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863066)

and start digging mass graves for them.

Car accidents (2, Interesting)

Itninja (937614) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863080)

It's interesting to me that there are new developments in PTSD treatment within less than a decade of of the declaration of 'car accident' being the #1 cause of PTSD. I mean, sure soldiers get it in wartime and 'police action' time, but when the car insurance companies start to lose money...then it's ON...

Re:Car accidents (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863280)

Or maybe there are a hell of a lot more drivers than soldiers and cops?

In fact I bet most soldiers and cops are also automobile drivers.

Re:Car accidents (1)

MmmmAqua (613624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865306)

This is a point which is often brought up when discussing PTSD. It's absolutely true that automobile accidents are the foremost cause of PTSD, but (and IANAPsychiatrist, I'm just repeating information related to me by the ones I've seen) most cases of PTSD from accidents are acute, not chronic. Long-term PTSD seems to be dominated by combat veterans, police officers, coasties, and the like.

Again - just what I've been told. If anyone knows of any studies confirming or disproving this, I would love to read them. I suffer from severe, chronic PTSD, and I am always interested in learning more about it.

Re:Car accidents (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865868)

My understanding, from what I've been told about the history of science/medicine aspect, is that the concept of "PTSD" emerged as a generalization of earlier observations of specifically combat-related trauma("soldier's heart", "shell shock", "battle fatigue") because of the work of psychologists looking at the symptoms of some victims of rape or sexual abuse and observing their similarity with the symptoms of some soldiers who had experienced combat stresses(mostly in Vietnam, just because of the time period).

What I don't know is whether rape victims are actually still believed to be the major component of civilian chronic PTSD cases, or whether they just happened to be the population that was being studied when the concept of "PTSD", a potential pathological response to trauma, emerged from earlier concepts of specifically military trauma.

Re:Car accidents (0, Troll)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865888)

I can confirm the car-crash case, at least anecdotally. It happened to me.

Head-on collision at 60mph, on a stretch of dark freeway. We ran into two cars that were parallel parked, jackknifed across the two lefthand lanes. (Never did find out why they chose that brilliant configuration.)

After that, I could barely sit in a car. All I can say is, once you've slammed into something at speed on a road that you were conditioned to believe would never contain any stationary objects, your brain just snaps. You're in heightened vigilance mode, all the time. I could not see an oncoming pair of headlights without tensing up, in case it might veer into the car. On a curved road, seeing the cars coming the other direction would have me squirming down below the level of the window. The accompanying feeling was so awful that, when I once went on a longish drive with a couple of friends to go to a concert, I just got in the back seat and lay down in a ball on the floor boards. As long as you didn't give me any triggers -- like seeing potential crash hazards -- I was fine. Put me in the front seat, and my teeth would be gritted and I'd be writhing around like a maniac. And I could laugh about it, even then. I knew I was acting like a wimp. I just couldn't do anything about it.

But like you say, the difference is that it's temporary. Long story short, all it took was some seriously reckless driving with a friend to give me another jolt and "snap me out of it." And I was fine, almost literally just like that. I kinda suspect that method is not going to work for the kind of chronic PTSD that military personnel confront.

Re:Car accidents (1)

telomerewhythere (1493937) | more than 4 years ago | (#30866360)

Actually, what you did with friend is called exposure therapy [factsforhealth.org]

Maybe that's part of why it usually goes away for car accident victims with PTSD (you/they pretty much still have to drive/ride in this day and age) and becomes chronic in war vets. (No more exposure after 1 or 2 tours)

PTSD? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863084)

Lewis Black made a very valid point in one of his routines about the disambiguation of this problem known as post traumatic stress disorder. Over time, it has gone from 'shell shock' to 'battle fatigue' to 'post traumatic stress disorder' and now to a simple acronym: PTSD. It's unfortunate, because the acronym carries none of the weight that the original name (shell shock) used to carry. I won't go so far as to say that we are moving to something like Newspeak and the "destruction of words" (Syme, character from Orwell's 1984), but this cannot be good, especially not for the poor souls afflicted with it.

Re:PTSD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863230)

That was George Carlin.

Re:PTSD? (1)

MmmmAqua (613624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865344)

I think it was George Carlin, and I disagree with the idea. What has happened is that the condition has moved from gross recognition into a well-described psychiatric diagnosis. It's the same thing that's happened with pretty much every other disease ever recognized. We no longer call AIDS the "gay disease", so why should different rules apply here?

Re:PTSD? (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865938)

Though that routine is pretty humorous (and was, as others mentioned, performed by George Carlin), I don't really agree with it. PTSD is a very broad and wide-ranging disorder; calling it "shell shock" is a disservice to those who inherited the condition through other equally-traumatic means (rape, death of a close friend, accident, etc).

Re:PTSD? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865968)

While I'm sure that there is some pressure in the direction of euphemism(doing some googling for "AEI PTSD" brings up some very interesting stuff about their work on attempting to discredit the concept entirely) I think there are also other factors at work.

For instance, "Shell shock" got its name because (in addition to it being a very snappy name) the condition was commonly associated with the harrowing days or weeks of heavy artillery bombardment that troops encountered during WWI. The name is dramatic; but it also reflects the particular conditions associated with the environment in which it was observed. "PTSD", by contrast, has a generic name because it is a generalization of trauma-related conditions. It wouldn't make much sense to call something that you can get because of a rape or vehicular accident "shell shock" or "battle fatigue" since neither shells nor battle are necessarily involved.

From the perspective of emphasizing the human costs of war, it could be quite useful to distinguish military sources of trauma from other sources; but, from a medical perspective, classifying conditions according to their commonalities of origin, symptoms, and preferred treatment is more logical.

And what will be the consequences of this test? (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863096)

If the test labels you as having PTSD, what will become of you? For example, will you forfeit your second amendment rights?

Re:And what will be the consequences of this test? (1)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863976)

Nope, but they will cut off your access to anti-socialism conspiracy theory forums on the internet.

Stress mitigating pharmaceuticals (2, Funny)

troylanes (883822) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863140)

AFAIK stress mitigating pharmaceuticals have been in use by both civilians and military for thousands of years... check out: this [wikipedia.org]

Impact factor? (1)

neurogeneticist (1631367) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863190)

For such an interesting result, its a bit surprising that they went for "The Journal of Neural Engineering". Impact factor = 2.7. Only been around since 2004. I don't want to denigrate science that gets published in lower-impact journals (because lots of good stuff ends up there), but the impact here is not congruous with the potential scientific and social ramifications of the results. I think some of the issues raised above might have something to do with it.

Re:Impact factor? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864812)

It is most likely because their "scientific method" is severly flawed [slashdot.org] .

What about bad marriages (1)

Sarlin (1309837) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863226)

I wonder if it can tell if you were in a bad marriage for 15 years with a banshee from the netherworld?!

Why not remove the cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863348)

Remove the cause, there was a study published recently comparing PTSD in both american and british soldiers, it was about the way they were treated just after they left combat. The americans debriefed the soldiers immediately after arriving, effectively forcing them to relive a second time the events, and make a profounder impression, while the britts let them get catch their breath and relax for a few hours, apparently the differences were staggering. I think it was about the first Iraq war, but recently just recently published, sometime during the last 6 months.

meg voodoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863590)

Meg still has lame spatial resolution. It's great that these guys are doing this and all, but it would be much more interesting know which functionally connected networks are up or down regulated in PTSD. MEG only measures the surface, it could be that the true seat of PTSD is actually deeper in the brain and detected in MEG only because there is a relatively high density of neurons conjugate to the true center which project onto a region of cortical surface.

New tools may hep catch more cases (3, Insightful)

the Dragonweaver (460267) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863676)

This is a very helpful diagnostic tool as there is still a stigma associated with any sort of mental disorder, particularly in the military. Some subsets handle it better than others; while some groups are more in the mindset of "get it treated" the idea of "malingerers" still holds true in some places. Self-diagnosis lags when there's a stigma attached.

I would also be interested to see this used to help diagnose sexual trauma. Among the female population of the military, rape is still the highest inducer of PTSD, and I'm sure that holds true for civilians as well.

The biggest reason for PTSD is that we, as humans in general, are not wired to cope with extreme trauma. Nor are we particularly wired to cause death. We train our military to automate these actions but in some people the brain can't cope with what the body has done. Look up "Achilles in America" for more information on the subject— there have been many studies done in and out of the military, and there are quite a few higher-ups who want to see the best treatments possible— and some who are looking into ways to mitigate the effects before they occur.

Re:New tools may hep catch more cases (1)

GenP (686381) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864986)

My Google-fu must be weak today. I can't seem to find anything relevant for "Achilles in America". Any hints?

Re:New tools may hep catch more cases (1)

MmmmAqua (613624) | more than 3 years ago | (#30865248)

This is a very helpful diagnostic tool as there is still a stigma associated with any sort of mental disorder, particularly in the military. Some subsets handle it better than others; while some groups are more in the mindset of "get it treated" the idea of "malingerers" still holds true in some places. Self-diagnosis lags when there's a stigma attached.

This is the truth. The Army provides "Combat Stress" teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, both on a regular rotation to the different patrol bases and FOBs, and after any direct-fire engagement or enemy action resulting in the loss of life. In my experience early in the Iraq war, these teams of councillors(sp?) were visited mostly by support - mechanics, S2 guys, etc. The guys who (arguably) needed it most, because of their repeated exposure to the worst of war, only rarely visited. We needed it most (subjective, I know, but we lived outside the wire while it was still a shooting war) and we blew it off.

Why? Because it was an admission of weakness. Because you didn't want to be labelled "crazy". Because when life gets hard, you put on your game face and complete the mission. Because if you've got an owie, you rub some dirt in it and drive on. Because if you can't sleep, you just have more time to get your shit wired for the next patrol. Because you're there for your battle buddy, and if you've lost friends before you'll be damned if you lose one again. Because if you get a shit sandwich, you just pour on two scoops of hooah and start chewing.

The stigma attached to mental health problems in the military, especially in combat arms, is a big reason PTSD doesn't get diagnosed early, and anything that can help soldiers, Marines, airmen, or sailors avoid slipping through the cracks before they ETS is solid gold.

( I am in no way disparaging the experience of non-combat arms SMs. We can't fight a war without you guys, and believe me when I say we appreciate you, but we'll always have a chip on our shoulder because of the job we do. That's just the way it is.)

Re:New tools may hep catch more cases (1)

winwar (114053) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865922)

"This is a very helpful diagnostic tool..."

Not based on the numbers. It might become a useful tool. But at present it cannot reliably differentiate between people with diagnosed PTSD and those without. Just imagine the results if you didn't already know the answer.

no vets w/o ptsd or civs w/? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863694)

What about scanning vets without ptsd, or civilians like cops with it? Even better, scan a lot of soldiers before they leave, and scan for differences when they come back. Note ptsd sufferers.
As their experiment stands currently, they might have only discovered a difference between a military-trained brain and a civilian one.

How just like the US military (4, Insightful)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 3 years ago | (#30863714)

To launch headlong into the most expensive, unworkable, unreasonable, ill-thought, entirely not-researched solutions. I'm not talking so much about the brain scan here; Harvard came up with the idea that PTSD could be detected in the brain, along with bi polar disorder and a few other conditions which might have detectable pathologies, and it's a very good idea.

What's a very bad idea is the notion that PTSD can be stopped, or at least mitigated with chemical or mechanical tools. Once you already have PTSD, or indeed any disorder on the dissociative scale (Howell, Chu), then there is some good evidence that pharmaceuticals can help mitigate some, but not all of the symptoms. Currently those pharmaceuticals fall into two major classes: sedative-hypnotics and atypical antipsychotics. Sedative-hypnotics, particularly benzodiazepines, cause massive problems with the creation of short term memories. Atypical antipsychotics have a host of horrible side effects, from flattened affect to tardive dyskenisia-- which is the permanent, uncontrolled flexing of small muscles, like facial tics, thumb-wiggles and circles, and shuffling gait. In short, they should not be used for any condition which is not treatable by any other means.

Also, there is no evidence (as has been noted by Harvard, at least) that there is any sort of genetic pre-disposition to the development of PTSD, or any other environmentally caused dissociative disorder. That is a dead end.

Furthermore, there is also absolutely no evidence that the pre-dosing of atypical antipsychotics or sedatives have any effect whatsoever on the development of PTSD, and in fact in both cases may very probably result in soldiers with far less willingness to shoot the enemy in the face than the military requires.

The fact is that the Pentagon is and has always created an enormous mess out of the minds that manage to survive their plans, and there's simply no way around it. It would be really great, I think, to come up with some way to make war more palatable for the people who have to be in it, but somehow the very root of the notion seems disingenuous.

War is fucking hell.

Re:How just like the US military (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30865570)

So researching it is wrong because it is not fully understood? What?

Re:How just like the US military (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30865982)

What's a very bad idea is the notion that PTSD can be stopped, or at least mitigated with chemical or mechanical tools. Once you already have PTSD, or indeed any disorder on the dissociative scale (Howell, Chu), then there is some good evidence that pharmaceuticals can help mitigate some, but not all of the symptoms. Currently those pharmaceuticals fall into two major classes: sedative-hypnotics and atypical antipsychotics. Sedative-hypnotics, particularly benzodiazepines, cause massive problems with the creation of short term memories. Atypical antipsychotics have a host of horrible side effects, from flattened affect to tardive dyskenisia-- which is the permanent, uncontrolled flexing of small muscles, like facial tics, thumb-wiggles and circles, and shuffling gait. In short, they should not be used for any condition which is not treatable by any other means.

Propranolol [neuropsych...eviews.com] is neither a sedative-hypnotic nor antipsychotic. It's a standard beta-blocker with very few side effects. Given that PTSD is at least in part a disfunction of memory, which has a neurochemical basis, why not try fixing it with chemical means?

We should be doing more to help vets!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30863916)

I've known a few cats that could be a bit brutal with their claws, but I had no idea vetinary science could be so mentally scarring!!

Good for use in Airports! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30864274)

I suggest the implementation of such devices at every gate at the airports past the X-ray body scanner.

A positive detection would certainly indicate a highly suspect subject to be immediately arrested for further questioning.

Actually, MRIs work fine (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#30864828)

If you suspect PTSD, you can just MRI their head. No need to look at the images; if they go apeshit as soon as the thing starts up, they've got PTSD. (if they go apeshit before it starts up, they're claustrophobic and you'll have to try something else).

Early study with flaws, in the hands of the VA.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30864902)

Obviously this is an initial study and that's why it is NOT a case matched or well controlled study. They are using something that is mostly just used in research (MEG) and thus don't want to scan a bunch of normals because they just want to find something to chase after - hence only studying PTSD afflicted vets and normal civilians. Now they can go about studying PTSD/non-PTSD vets, regular vets vs civilians, etc.

But my issue is that the VA tends to just want something on file all the time. If this turned out to show evidence of PTSD (yet not be specific or sensitive enough to rule out or rule in PTSD on its own) then what will happen is that every vet who says they sometimes have dreams about combat is going to get a scan and have it in their file, even if it means absolutely nothing without the clinical diagnosis. They do this already with x-rays - a new vet complaining of even occasional pain in his joints will get them all imaged, even though there is no reason to have the x-ray. It's not cost effective and probably poor for the patient (from then on any "pain" might get passed off because of a normal x-ray before). I suppose it might be related to getting service connected (everything comes down to money).

So in 5 years will we be paying for every vet to be screened with MEG? And what happens when MEG also sometimes spots people with hostile and violent tendencies that tend to commit crimes? Or drug addicts?

Hopefully, it is so expensive or time consuming that it will only be used in the proper and relevant clinical setting (even if MEG said yes this person has PTSD or no he doesn't, psychiatrists would probably tread the patient the same way regardless based on symptoms - go to classes, groups, etc).

Corrections (2, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30866150)

MEG is not new, it's over 40 years old.

Conceptually it's even older. It is the magnetic signals associated with the well known EEG 'brain waves', first recorded in 1928.

It is exactly and only the perpendicular to the EEG signals, and as such are analyzed in much the same way, and represent the same neural processes.

What good it is, is it can detect and localize 'dipole' generators in the folds of the cortex. Since the negative and positive ends of those are the same distance from the scalp, they balance out on EEG and can't be seen. The magnetic field to such a dipole is most prominent in this configuration.

The drawback is that detecting the ~10 femtotesla signals require massive shielding to prevent pretty much any near by electrical activity to interfere. With signals that weak, it's a good thing the magnetic field isn't reduced by the skull and scalp like EEG (by 3 orders of magntitude).

The detectors are superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDS). They require massive technical infrastructure and maintenance, ie. great expense.

Except for the localization noted, if MEG can do it, EEG can do it easier, cheaper (three orders of magnitude), faster (in terms of turnover), and operated by personnel with less training. There are portable EEGs capable of being operated in the field, but even a full size unit is about the size of a desktop computer and can be run off a laptop.

I'd be very interested to hear what TFA has to say about why MEG is necessary. Their 248 SQUID machine is high density, but so are the 256 electrode EEG that have been on the market for years. I'd also like to know exactly what the signals of interest are, so I can figure out how to pull it out of EEG with far less sophisticated equipment, such as exists in pretty much every VA neurology department.

How does it work? (1)

DissociativeBehavior (1397503) | more than 4 years ago | (#30866508)

How is this supposed to work if your disorder is triggered by an external stimulus, like a sound, an image or an odor?

Niiice! (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30868190)

So I could prove the method I developed, to heal any mental disorder?
And prove that it’s way more efficient than anything classic psychology does?

Now if only I had access to such a device, and someone who knows how to use it...

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