How does post-traumatic stress disorder affect our attention?
Mental Health PTSD Attention Span

How does post-traumatic stress disorder affect our attention?

Jocelyn Tourtellotte
Jocelyn Tourtellotte

In 10 seconds? Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or childhood sexual abuse can impact our ability to focus our attention, for example on potential danger. But treatment with intranasal oxytocin shows promise of reducing this effect, researchers have found.

What’s the discovery? According to the findings of the study, when trauma results in PTSD (in about 10% of cases) or people with a history of childhood sexual abuse, connectivity within areas of our brains tied to attention span can be affected. What happens? Different areas of the brain are active depending on the “kind” of attention needed from us. This sounds wonky at first, but let’s think about what happens when you hear a loud noise behind you--without consciously focusing on it your attention is drawn to that noise and you begin trying to decipher what it may be (and if it is a threat) before you turn around. This is because of the “ventral neural attention network” (VAN), which connects the areas of your brain that signal “ALERT” and determine a response is necessary.

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