High blood levels of a hormone produced in response to stress are linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in women but not men, a study from researchers at Emory University and the University of Vermont has found. The results appear in the Feb. 24 issue of Nature. Emory University media contact: Kathi Baker, kobaker@emory.edu, 404-727-9371

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The hormone, called PACAP (pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide), is known to act throughout the body and the brain, modulating central nervous system activity, metabolism, blood pressure, pain sensitivity and immune function. The identification of PACAP as an indicator of PTSD may lead to new diagnostic tools and eventually, to new treatments for anxiety disorders.

"Few biological markers have been available for PTSD or for psychiatric diseases in general," says first author Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and a researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center. "These results give us a new window into the biology of PTSD."