Vancouver scientist's brain discovery named a top story of 2015

Dec 20 2017, 3:36 am

Dr. Robert Tarzwell, a North Vancouver scientist out of Lions Gate Hospital, is among a team of scholars who have made Discover Magazine‘s top 100 stories of 2015 list, coming in at number 19.

Dr. Tarzwell was one of the scientists led by Dr. Daniel Amen who published a study in July that discovered how a medical imaging test could tell the difference in the brain between post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.

“Over a million soldiers have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the men and women who have returned from combat, more than 100,000 have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Over 300,000 more have been told they have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In many cases, symptoms are the same: insomnia, anxiety, irritability, poor concentration and limited impulse control,” said Discover Magazine.

Until recently, doctors often mistook one illness for the other, but while the symptoms for the illness are similar, the treatments are largely different.

What Dr. Tarzwell and the team discovered was a medical imaging test called “single photon emission computed tomography”, or SPECT, that could show the differences in the brain between PTSD and TBI.

“Understanding which is which is huge. Physical damage from TBIs, for example, can depress brain activity. If a doctor mistakes it for PTSD and prescribes sedatives that are often helpful for that condition, those drugs can further dampen cerebral function and worsen symptoms,” added Discover.

Dr. Tarzwell was the only B.C. scientist to work on the discovery. His primary area of research, as listed by Vancouver Coastal Health, is functional brain imaging in psychiatric disorders. Lions Gate Hospital, where Dr. Tarzwell works, is home of the PRISM Odyssey 3000 triple-headed gamma camera system, the best brain SPECT system west of Toronto.

Other top stories from 2015 included the Homo naledi discovery in South Africa and the New Horizons probe that captured up-close pictures of Pluto for the first time.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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