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U.S. Military Studying PTSD Risk Factors

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U.S. military researchers are trying to identify genetic and other factors that may help single out soldiers most at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

A better understanding of underlying contributing causes might help reduce the incidence of PTSD and improve treatment.

"Right now, we can't determine with certainty who will and who won't develop PTSD," Paula Schnurr, deputy executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, told the Associated Press. "Perhaps with better measures, we can get closer."

Members of certain Marine and Army units are undergoing extensive physical and mental assessments -- including stress exams, brain imaging and genetic testing -- before combat deployment. The soldiers are monitored in the war zones and assessed again when they return home.

The purpose of learning more about factors that contribute to PTSD is not to bar certain people from military service, Cmdr. Bryan Schumacher, the 1st Marine Division's top doctor, told the AP. If the research identifies ways to prevent PTSD, those who are vulnerable could be given special training to reduce their risk, he explained.

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