So much of what is learned in brain science stays in science. It’s rare for practitioners and scientists to work in conjunction, translating the latest advances into programs to improve the lives of individuals. That’s what makes the Center unique.
PTSD is an injury like a broken arm. It is a neurobiological adaptation sustained as a result of an overwhelming or stressful event or events, and the chemistry and physiology of the brain are changed. This change need not be permanent, and, like a broken arm, is treatable. PTSD is not a mental weakness, nor is it some self-inflicted emotional problem.
A 2012 study by the Veterans Administration reveals nearly 30% of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD. Symptoms can occur immediately, weeks, months or even years after combat experience.
Common symptoms can include difficulty sleeping, increased arousal or excitability, avoiding situations, re-experiencing events and feeling numb or detached from other people and present experiences.
With early intervention and appropriate treatment, service members can mitigate and even eliminate symptoms of PTSD. Treatment can teach service members effective coping strategies for dealing with stressful situations.
The Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas was awarded a $3 million grant from the Department of Defense in 2011 to further investigate the effectiveness of a paired treatment for PTSD. This no-cost, non-drug treatment combined Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS).
CPT is an evidence-based behavioral therapy treatment designed to give individuals experiencing PTSD new ways to handle distressing thoughts. During 12 weekly CPT sessions with a CPT trained therapist, participants learned how to lessen the hyper-arousal response associated with PTSD. rTMS is an FDA-approved treatment for certain anxiety disorders. It involves directing a magnetic coil over a specific part of the brain, which temporarily lessens the participant’s overactive physiological response before entering the CPT session. Our research and medical team monitored each treatment. In addition the double-blind study included EEG (brain wave) and functional MRIs (fMRI) measures at the initial and final stages of treatment to evaluate treatment response.
This clinical trial could improve the mental and emotional well-being of veterans affected by PTSD and may also reveal a more effective strategy for treating PTSD in the general population.