University of Minnesota researcher appointed Anderson Chair in PTSD Research

Health Sciences, UMN
Monday, November 11, 2013

Brian Engdahl, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychology at the Brain Sciences Center at the University of Minnesota and psychologist and clinician investigator at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, has been appointed the Anderson Chair in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

The Anderson Chair helps understand and heal the psychological scars that often haunt veterans as they return home from service. The $2 million gift honors the late William Lewis Anderson, a combat medic who died trying to save a wounded soldier on the battlefield in World War II.

Engdahl has served veterans for more than 30 years at the Brain Sciences Center and Minneapolis VA Medical Center and is working on numerous research initiatives to assess and treat veterans with serious disabilities, including PTSD.

“It’s an honor to be named the Anderson Chair in PTSD Research,” said Engdahl. “We hope to continue the great work done at the University of Minnesota and VA Medical Center to help those who served our country but now are afflicted with PTSD and other life altering disabilities.”

With Apostolos Georgopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Brain Sciences Center, Engdahl has recently helped discover that a special kind of brain scan can identify, with 95 percent accuracy, veterans with PTSD. Because this appears to be the first objective marker of a mental disorder, the findings should help develop better kinds of PTSD treatment, encourage more people who suffer from it to seek help, and reduce the stigma associated with PTSD and other mental disorders.

“The University of Minnesota has strong programs in brain science and on the provision of care for those with brain injury,” said Aaron Friedman, M.D., vice president for health sciences and dean of the Medical School. “The awarding of this Chair to Professor Engdahl reflects his enormous contribution in understanding and treating brain injury.”


PTSD Studies at The Brain Sciences Center: Brain function

Veterans with exposure to combat & trauma: studies of brain function, cognition and adjustment

Objectives: To use brain imaging to better understand brain function, cognition and adjustment of veterans who may or may not be experiencing symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or other co-occuring mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, etc.

Research plan and methods: Veterans with and without PTSD, mTBI, depression, and other co-occurring disorders will be invited to complete mental health assessments, cognitive testing, and a brief, noninvasive task to measure brain activity (magnetoencephalography, or MEG).

This study has already increased understanding through numerous presentations and two articles in scientific journals. It has also gained a lot of media attention. A simple Google internet search of "Engdahl MEG PTSD" turns up over 97,000 results, including articles from Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, USA Today, TIME, CNET, and the Scientific American, as well as segments on Fox 9 News and Minnesota Public Radio.

TIME, Jan. 25, 2010: Study Points at a Clear-Cut Way to Diagnose PTSD

StarTribune, Jan. 20, 2010: Brain scans pinpoint stress disorder in war veterans


"PTSD is a psychiatric disorder deļ¬ned by an enduring set of maladaptive symptoms that arise after exposure to one or more potentially life-threatening events. These include unwanted re-experiencing of persistent painful trauma memories through nightmares, daytime intrusive memories and psychological distress or physiologic arousal when reminded of the trauma."
(B Engdahl, et al., "Post-traumatic stress disorder: a right temporal lobe syndrome?", J. Neural Eng. 7, 2010)

PTSD in the United States - About 7-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. About 5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year.

PTSD in the U. S. Armed Forces - PTSD occurs in about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 10% of Gulf War Veterans and 30% of Vietnam Veterans. (National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs, 2010)

If you are interested in our studies, please call our Project Coordinator at 612-467-1460


Dr. Brian Engdahl

U of M working to help veterans with PTSD

U of M researcher Brian Engdahl talks about new research that could help diagnose and treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which often affects veterans, in this YouTube video.


Updated April 28, 2017