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Therapeutic Interventions Impact Brain Function and Promote Post-Traumatic Growth in Adults

Written by: Pierce, Z. P., Johnson, E. R., Kim, I. A., Lear, B. E., Mast, A. M., & Black, J. M. (2023)

Edited by: EMDR-Zone Editorial Team

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EMDR showed the strongest link between enhanced brain function and post-traumatic growth, outperforming other interventions. 

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Introduction to Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) and Its Significance

Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) is a transformative process that individuals undergo after experiencing profound traumatic stress. Unlike resilience, which is about bouncing back from adversity, PTG involves rebuilding one's perception of self, others, and the world after trauma. This concept has provided clinicians, researchers, and survivors with a new perspective on reclaiming life from the grips of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Current research on PTG has primarily focused on its theoretical construct across various clinical contexts and its operationalization during chronic illnesses.

The Neuroscience Behind PTG

Recent studies in neuroscience have aimed to identify key brain areas involved in the phenomenon of PTG. Regions like the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (L dlPFC) and the left/right anterior cingulate cortex (L/R ACC) have been highlighted for their roles in regulating distressing affect and synthesizing thoughts and feelings, respectively. The left precuneus has also been identified as crucial in helping survivors effectively recode trauma memories and reduce the sensitivity of trauma triggers.

Therapeutic Interventions and Their Impact on Brain Function

The article focuses on three leading psychotherapies for PTSD: cognitive processing therapy (CPT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and prolonged exposure (PE). These therapies have been studied for their impact on PTG and brain function. The research aimed to advance knowledge about the neural bases of PTG across these treatments, providing insights into their effectiveness and promoting the importance of PTG in trauma-informed care.

Methodology of the Systematic Review