Pharmacological modulation of acute trauma memories to prevent PTSD: Considerations from a developmental perspective

Bryce Hruska, Patrick K. Cullen, Douglas L. Delahanty

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Estimates of the lifetime prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in American adults range from 6.4% to 6.8%. PTSD is associated with increased risk for comorbid major depression, substance use disorder, suicide, and a variety of other mental and physical health conditions. Given the negative sequelae of trauma/PTSD, research has focused on identifying efficacious interventions that could be administered soon after a traumatic event to prevent or reduce the subsequent incidence of PTSD. While early psychosocial interventions have been shown to be relatively ineffective, early (secondary) pharmacological interventions have shown promise. These pharmacological approaches are largely based on the hypothesis that disruption of altered stress hormone levels and the consequent formation of trauma memories could protect against the development of PTSD. The present manuscript reviews the literature regarding the role of peri-traumatic stress hormones as risk factors for the development of PTSD and reviews evidence for the efficacy of exogenously modulating stress hormone levels to prevent/buffer the development of PTSD symptoms. Whereas prior literature has focused primarily on either child or adult studies, the present review incorporates both child and adult studies in a developmental approach to understanding risk for PTSD and how pharmacological modulation of acute memories may buffer the development of PTSD symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-129
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Cortisol
  • Developmental
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Propranolol
  • Trauma memories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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