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Reversible changes

The brain and the earthquake

Getting out alive from a traumatic event can lead to long-term – but possibly reversible – changes in the brain. The research team led by Atsushi Sekiguchi at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, took cranial magnetic resonance images of 37 survivors of the major earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, killing 16,000 people. The exams, performed right after the cataclysm and a year later, revealed that the orbitofrontal cortex, a structure linked to self-esteem, had initially shrunk in size as a response to stress, but had grown again over time (Molecular Psychiatry, April 29, 2014). The researchers believe that the structure grew back because the psychological tests performed on the survivors indicated a strong ability to handle extreme situations.