View all news

Volunteers required for University's post-traumatic stress study

Press release issued: 10 January 2006

Bristol University is looking for male volunteers to participate in a study that aims to understand why some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some do not.

Bristol University is looking for male volunteers to participate in a study that aims to understand why some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some do not.  The study hopes ultimately to lead to new treatments for the disorder.

The study will be carried out by researchers in psychopharmacology, based at the Henry Wellcome Laboratories in the Dorothy Hodgkin Building,  the University’s £18.75m stress research centre, opened last year.  The researchers will look at people who have been exposed to a major trauma and compare those who have developed PTSD with those who have not. 

The study intends to ascertain the relationship between brain function and structure as measured by brain scans and stress hormone released when people who have experienced a major trauma are re-exposed to an account of it. 

Research thus far suggests that stress hormone release can be dysregulated in people who have developed PTSD and that the pattern of brain activation in response to autobiographical memories is different in people who have developed PTSD compared to those who have not.

This study aims to understand whether the two are related and to increase our understanding of the brain changes that underlie this condition. If a relationship between stress hormone release and brain activation changes were to be found, this study would open the door to testing alternative and new treatment strategies.

The experience of traumatic events that threaten severe injury to the self or others can have long-term psychological and psychiatric consequences.  In civilian life and in politically stable democracies, the traumatic events are likely to be assaults, kidnappings, acts of terrorism, fires, rapes, major road traffic or other accidents and natural disasters. 

After such events it is not unusual for people who initially responded with fear, helplessness or horror to experience some anxiety, poor sleep and avoidance of similar situations for some days.  These tend to resolve quickly in most people, but some trauma victims develop persistent and intrusive symptoms that can be long lasting and impair (often severely) day to day functioning. 

These symptoms include persistent re-experience of the events (flashbacks or dreams), avoidance and numbing (intense anxiety and arousal when exposed to trauma cues, a sense of foreshortened future, decreased interest in life) and increased arousal.  The full syndrome is known as post traumatic stress disorder.

Dr Andrea Malizia, who is leading the study, said: “Some symptoms of this disorder have been known for centuries, being described, for example, by Samuel Pepys after the Great Fire of London in 1666.  The current symptoms clusters have also been well documented for at least 100 years in war.  However, interest in the syndrome was sharpened by the large number of US Vietnam veterans who experienced PTSD, many of whom had significant adjustment problems because of it. 

“PTSD was formally categorised in classifications of psychiatric disorder in the early 1980s and there has been much interest in its causation and treatment since.  The course of PTSD is often long lasting or chronic and it is often accompanied by alcohol or substance misuse and depression and results in significant disability.

“We hope that this study will increase our understanding of PTSD and ultimately result in new treatment strategies.”

If you are male and interested in taking part in the study, please contact Dr Srivastava or Mrs Rich on 0117 9282778 or e-mail

The £18.75 million Dorothy Hodgkin Building, which houses the University of Bristol's stress research centre, was opened in 2004.  It contains state-of-the-art labs for 120 researchers, working on radical new approaches to the treatment of stress-related illness, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and hormone problems. 

Bristol University has an international reputation in the field of neuroendocrinology, and the new building allows research teams to join forces on a single site with the space they need and facilities of the highest standard.

Edit this page