Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that motivates some people to seek out massage therapy. New research shows people who suffer from PTSD have reduced recognition of fear and sadness in other people’s facial expressions.

Investigators looked into emotional processing in a group of war veterans with symptoms developed after prolonged exposure to combat-related traumatic events, according to a press release from Elsevier, which published the journal the research ran in.

“PTSD is already known to be associated with difficulties in experiencing, identifying, and describing emotions, the new study however specifically examined the participants’ ability to recognize particular emotional facial expressions,” the press release noted. “Participants were shown short video clips of emotional faces representing one of the six basic emotions (happiness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust and sadness). Compared to healthy subjects, the participants with PTSD were less able to recognize two emotions in particular: fear and sadness.”

The researchers believe the brans of people with PTSD are changed in terms of how they process specific emotions, and that certain aspects of this disorder could be understood as a consequence of the altered processing of emotional cues.

“Reduced recognition of fear and sadness in post-traumatic stress disorder” by Ervin Poljac, Barbara Montagne and Edward H.F. de Haan and appears in Cortex, Volume 47, Issue 8 (September 2011), published by Elsevier in Italy.

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