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Pilot Study Suggests Possible Connection Between PTSD and Risk for Dementia in 911 Responders

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A new study suggests 911 WTC responders with PTSD may be at risk for dementia.
A new study suggests 911 WTC responders with PTSD may be at risk for dementia.

STONY BROOK, NY, March 5, 2019 –  The physical and cognitive health of 911 World Trade Center responders remains a concern for healthcare professionals who care for the thousands of responders, many of whom continue to experience conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A new pilot study led by researchers at Stony Brook University and the Stony Brook World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program suggests that there may be a link between chronic PTSD in responders and neurodegeneration. The study is published early online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

The study tested neuronal biomarkers in the plasma of 34 responders. Half of them had symptoms of PTSD. The average age of the responders at blood draw was 53 years. The investigators found that those with PTSD symptoms had changes in amyloid-beta levels and other neuronal alterations in blood often associated with neurodegenerative diseases of aging, including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, when compared to responders without PTSD.

According to lead researcher Sean Clouston, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Population and Preventive Medicine, Program in Public Health at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, the findings are preliminary yet significant enough to expand and replicate the analyses in the patient population.

Benjamin Luft, MD, co-author and Director of the WTC Health and Wellness Program, emphasized the need to carefully evaluate and monitor these patients to determine whether they develop clinical evidence of cognitive impairment – something that is not yet clear.

The research is supported in part by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with nearly 26,000 students, more than 2,700 faculty members and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University is among a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University fuels Long island’s economic growth. Its impact on the Long island economy amounts to $7.38 billion in increased output. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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