A new study examining Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in wild animals could contain some new insight when it comes to how PTSD is clinically treated in humans.

Ecologist Dr. Liana Zanette and her team have been studying whether or not PTSD affects wild animals and if so, in what ways?

“Maybe PTSD makes perfect evolutionary sense," she says.

“Even brief exposure to a predator can have long-lasting effects in these animals. Basically it transforms their brain and this leads to enduring effects even when out of these situations just like we see in PTSD.”

That's an effect Zanette says mirrors human brain responses when it comes to PTSD.

“All those downstream behavioural effects we see - it all starts in the brain -  because the brain has been switched on because hey there’s danger out there because if I don’t want to die I better pay attention.”

Zanette says the results of this study can have important implications for a wide range of areas, including biomedical researchers and ecologists but also mental health clinicians.

One of the most common forms of treatment for PTSD in humans is to stop the thought process with medications, but she believes the findings in this animal study could lead to a new understanding and possibly new treatments.

“So really what we are seeing is that the brain is not dysfunctional at all and what it’s actually doing is being hyper functional.”

The next steps in this study will be to conduct similar research beyond the lab and actually out in the wild, in order to paint a more accurate picture of PTSD behaviour.