It's a difficult question and, again, I'm not an expert. Yes, we are actually funding research in that area. What you're describing is typical of post-traumatic stress disorder. Again, you have to understand it as the brain circuits that are involved in fear. These brain circuits also involve the hormonal axis that will release noradrenalin, adrenalin, and corticosterone in the bloodstream when you face anxiety and any stressful situation.
Normally, there are mechanisms whereby the fear circuit will be stopped; the hormonal imbalance will be stopped and will revert to normal. Everything reverts to normal, and you're okay. In the case of post-traumatic stress disorder, it's as if the mechanism to extinguish the fear reaction and the mechanisms to bring the hormonal levels—particularly the cortisol level—back to normal are no longer operational.
Lots of studies are trying to understand what is going awry in the brain circuitry. Not only are the normal mechanisms that extinguish the signal not operational, but also, you will have triggers exactly as you described. It could be sound. It could be smell. Very often there are spontaneous images--often dreaming.
As you know, it's like a state of hyper-vigilance, right? These people have huge problems sleeping, and they have a very strong dream content that always brings back the memories. The hippocampus is very much involved. All the circuits that are involved in recalling the memories are recalled and are put into action in an appropriate way.
You're asking me how we can understand it. We're talking about the next frontier, which is understanding the brain. Yes, there are several studies that we're supporting currently that are trying to examine just that through imaging techniques: what the relationships between the brain and the hormonal system are and what circuits of the brain are involved. But I would say that it's still early days.
It's critical in my sense, too, that we understand this, because it's only when we understand it that we'll be able to develop treatments that are not empirical. Right now, the treatments we're using are, as you know, the same types of treatments that we are using in depression. It's very difficult to treat.