From Scientific American By Dina Fine Maron: When Charles Wilkinson thinks about soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) his mind jumps to a pea-size structure tucked behind the bridge of the nose and ensconced below the base of the brain. There the pituitary gland serves as the master regulator of the human endocrine system, producing vital hormones that influence growth and development—except when something goes awry.
Wilkinson and a small cadre of scientists are studying whether traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by battlefield explosions can damage soldiers’ pituitary glands in ways that cause lasting health problems. Preliminary work (pdf) that Wilkinson presented to the Department of Veterans Affairs in May indicates that soldiers with TBI go on to develop hormonal deficiencies and symptoms that could be mistaken for PTSD as much as 40 percent of the time.
The startling finding is based on only a couple dozen soldiers and needs to be replicated within a larger group, but several other small studies over the past six years suggest a similar relationship. The ostensible link might augment our understanding of what causes the complex constellation of symptoms associated with PTSD.