A friend of mine, Brian Elliott, gave his input on PTSD and Brain Function. Brian is a Blogger of a website called diabetic-victory.com. He recently researched post-Diabetes And PTSD Are They Related. I believe he can add some additional brain function and memory information for us. 🙂

Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) have trouble concentrating or have other problems with their memory, like memory loss.

Memory and concentration problems are common symptoms of PTSD. Other symptoms of the condition may also harm memory and concentration. For example, people with PTSD often experience difficulties sleeping, poor sleep can affect a person’s ability to concentrate while staying focused during the day.

PTSD- How It Can Affect Your Memory Function

 Fortunately, there are things that you can do to improve your memory and concentration skills. Learn just how to do so with the tips that follow.

  It is common for people with PTSD to experience sleep problems. Difficulty falling or staying asleep is considered to be one of the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD. Poor sleep can have a tremendous negative influence on your ability to concentrate and stay focused during the day. By improving your sleep. You may be able to improve your ability to concentrate, remembering important information with useful facts. Here are some tips to provide some helpful ways for improving your sleep quality.

  • Be mindful: The symptoms of PTSD can be very distracting, and as a result, a person’s memory, concentration, and attention may all suffer. Mindfulness can be an excellent way of improving your present moment awareness, by helping your ability to stay focused.
  • There are resources here at mywellbrain to help with your memory: There are many techniques available on the Internet also to improve memory, enhance recall and increase retention of information.
  • Natural Ways to Help Memory: These tips can help those with memory problems find ways to improve their ability to focus and retain information.

Identifying Short-Term Memory Loss From PTSD

Short-term memory loss with PTSD results in symptoms we often label as “forgetfulness.” Have you ever forgotten if you’ve fed a pet, why you walked into a room, or if you took your medications? All of these are related to short-term memory. Short-term memory declines with age but is distinguishable from memory issues related to dementia by the type of information that is forgotten.With short-term memory, reminders can help you recall what you did or said, or it may come back to you later. With advancing dementia, the ability to recollect how to use everyday objects, the names of familiar people, and how to perform typical tasks such as buttoning a shirt can become impossible. I have also found a short video that also helps address the effects of PTSD on the brain. Examples of how PTSD Can Affect Your Memory Function.


PTSD and Other Brain Areas

Besides the hippocampus, abnormalities of other brain areas, including the medial prefrontal cortex, are also associated with PTSD.The medial prefrontal cortex regulates emotional – fear responses. The medial prefrontal cortex is closely linked to the hippocampus. In several studies,- found a dysfunction of both the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus at times when patients were suffering from PTSD symptoms.Dysfunction in these medial prefrontal regions may underlie pathological emotional responses in patients with PTSD. For example, sometimes there is a failure of extinction of fear responses — a rape victim who was raped in a dark alley will have fear reactions to dark places for years after the original event, even though there is no threat associated with a particularly dark place.In a study using combat-related slides and sounds to provoke PTSD symptoms, combat veterans with PTSD had decreased blood flow in the area of the medial prefrontal cortex. Significantly, this did not occur in combat veterans without PTSD We saw similar results when we compared women with PTSD and a history of childhood sexual abuse to women with a history of abuse but no PTSD.

Drug Treatments

The good news is that treatments for PTSD result in an improvement in the brain. Treatment with paroxetine for up to a year in PTSD patients resulted in significant improvements in verbal declarative memory and a 4.6% increase in mean hippocampal volume.  Studies have also shown an increase in the right hippocampal and cerebral cortical brain volume with treatment with phenytoin in PTSD. Still, other recent studies have also shown changes in the brain with psychotherapy for PTSD.Panda Planner

PTSD sufferers often have difficulty remembering small details of their lives. One Vietnam veteran mentioned in Wellness Directory of Minnesota says of a PTSD reaction to an anniversary of a trauma, “I’d forgotten my own phone number when prompted for my Military Signature, I had to ask, ‘What’s that?'” This kind of memory loss makes it difficult for people to complete even routine tasks like mailing letters or getting to appointments.

Vocational Effects – Examples of How PTSD Can Affect Memory Function

Finding + keeping a job is often very difficult for persons with PTSD. According to Bremner, “Hippocampal damage can reduce the capacity for learning due to the impact of stress on neural regeneration in the hippocampus.” In addition to having difficulties remembering the time and place of an appointment, there is added difficulty in learning new tasks required by the employer.  One veteran mentioned in the Wellness Directory of Minnesota states of the ability of a PTSD sufferer to focus on a task, “We often spend more time on the periphery of a problem than on the problem itself. This is one reason many of us are unemployable.” Any form of schooling or vocational training presents similar problems, making it difficult to advance in a career or provide significant income contributions to the family.

Another kind of “memory loss” has to do with aphasia, which is the loss of the ability to speak and understand language. According to Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, there is an “inhibitory effect on Broca’s area [that] will impair the encoding of conscious memory for traumatic events at the time they occur.”

A person might know which word he is trying to say but end up saying a completely different word. Loss of effective communication damages chances for a person with PTSD to be able to conduct a successful interview or pass classes.

Relationship Effects

The impairment of communication is drastic in relationships, especially intimate relationships. The inability to hold down a job because of memory problems contributes to stress within live-in relationships. And possible feelings of shame in the person with PTSD.

Memory loss can also include memories of an intimate other. As one Vietnam veteran mentioned in the Wellness Directory of Minnesota reports, “While there, I’d forgotten I’d had a fiancée, the woman who a month earlier, I had intended on marrying. I’d forgotten nearly everything associated with her.”

How Healing Happens

Changes to the brain can seem disastrous and might seem to represent permanent damage. The truth is that these Calterations can be reversed.

ptsd how it can affect your memory function

The amygdala can learn to relax; the hippocampus can resume proper memory consolidation; the nervous system can recommence its easy flow between reactive and restorative modes. The key to achieving a state of neutrality, then healing lies in helping to reprogram the body with the mind.

While the two collaborate in a natural feedback loop, processes designed for each individually are vast. Hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming along with other brain-related modalities can teach the mind to reframe and release the grip of trauma.


Approaches including somatic experiencing, tension – trauma releasing exercises and other body-centric techniques can help the body recalibrate to normalcy.

Survivors are unique; their healing will be individual. There is no one-size-fits-all or personal guarantee for what will work (and the same program will not work for everyone). However, the majority of evidence suggests that when survivors commit to a process of exploring testing and treatment options they can, over time, reduce the effects of trauma. In some cases even eliminate symptoms of PTSD.

There are other tools to help with depression and the brain.

Final Thoughts About PTSD and Memory Function

Many people with PTSD have thought that there is just no cure for the disease. Today that is a myth in the medical profession. The brain is a marvelous organ of the body. Damaged areas of the brain can learn to function normally once again. Light and sound therapy can improve some patients’ outcomes. There are also many prescription medications for use with brain injuries. Keep in mind these drugs come with a risk of side effects.  Some of the best advice I can offer is the use of natural remedies, with proper diet and exercise. One might follow up with group therapy so that the injury is not stuffed away but dealt with properly.Once again I would like to thank Paula for asking me to do an in-depth post for her website. I had a bit of a challenge writing for you with all the medical jargon involved. Make sure you leave comments to us on what you thought of the post. That way we can continue to improve the articles moving forward.

Brian Elliott