For the Classroom

Guess the Disorder Quiz: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Published11 Jul 2018
  • Reviewed11 Jul 2018
  • Author Emma Lindberg
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN


Neurologists and psychiatrists work every day to diagnose patients. One way they do this is by observing patients and asking them to describe their symptoms. In this activity, students will fill the role of a neurologist trying to diagnose a disease or disorder based on the evidence provided.

After studying the provided materials on diseases and disorders in the eighth edition of Brain Facts, students will investigate the symptoms of an unnamed disease using a handful of clues. Students will sift through their knowledge of neurodegenerative diseases, injury, and psychiatric disorders to eliminate wrong answers and solve the mystery.

Prep Work

This activity is based on chapters 11–15 (pages 71–104) of the eighth edition of Brain Facts. Encourage students to read the chapters during class time or on their own to study for the Guess the Disorder Quiz.


  1. Provide your student with the “Disorder Clues” prompt.
  2. Ask your students to read the prompt and use the information they learned from the Brain Facts book to determine the diagnosis. This can be done individually or as a group.


After your students have completed the quiz, ask them to share their answers with the class. Ask each student or group to give their rationale as to why they chose the diagnosis they did.

Disorder Clues

This disorder can develop after a person experiences a harrowing, traumatic event such as military combat, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a serious accident, or physical or sexual assault. This disorder can arise quickly after the distressing event, but sometimes it can take months to years for symptoms to emerge.

Symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Intrusive memories of the event
  • Hyperarousal — feeling on edge and/or angry
  • Memory loss
  • Feelings of blame or guilt
  • Decreased interest in everyday activities

Neuroscientists have discovered physiological changes in people with this disorder. These changes include increased heart rate and heightened electrical sensitivity throughout the skin and on the face in response to audio or video triggers of traumatic scenes like gunfire or other violence. Simply recalling the initial traumatic event can also bring on these symptoms. Another hallmark of this disorder is shallow sleep with increased periods of rapid eye movement, which can lead to sleep deprivation over time. 


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)



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