Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating psychiatric disease that often follows acute or chronic exposure to extreme stress. Hallmarks of this disorder include stressors, intrusion symptoms, avoidance, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity (Bovin, 2015). Since it was first defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III (DSM-III), the diagnostic criteria for PTSD have evolved to encompass stressors as they may occur repeatedly across the lifespan (Bovin, 2015). Physiological and behavioral consequences of this extreme stress manifest themselves as systemic alterations in form and function. As is true of many diagnosable conditions, PTSD is most prevalent in African Americans and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed in their lifetime (Torres, 2020). More recent studies have elucidated that race-based traumatic stress elicits a chronic stress response that mimics that of PTSD (Carter, 2020). While this disorder causes primary changes to the brain, further downstream effects cause global corporal alterations and lead to maladaptive responses to future stressors.

Previous studies have demonstrated that the hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex play important roles in PTSD. Studies have expanded on these findings and traced their effects downstream in other body systems including the immune system, central nervous system, digestive system, and endocrine system (Stam, 2007). Though there is a significant understanding of the psychological and physiological manifestations of PTSD, the interactions of the distal branching effects of this disorder on the body are less substantiated as they relate to racial trauma. Only more recently have researchers begun to examine their findings through an interdisciplinary lens as they apply to race. This capstone project is a literature review of the chronic stress response, secondary and downstream effects of stress on the numerous body systems, and their integrated implications on health as they relate to race-based stress. The research collected explores the physiological and neurobehavioral alterations which take place secondary to general trauma exposure, the long-term consequences of chronic stress, and the role of race as a social determinant of health. Various medical and academic interventions will be discussed, as well as the secondary effects of racial trauma on people of color.

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Neurosciences Commons