Hope for the Journey – PTSD Research at VA

November 11, 2010

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition that can affect people who have experienced life-threatening events. This condition, so often associated with combat traumas, also affects many Americans who have lived through other types of traumatic events, such as car crashes or other serious accidents, fires, or natural disasters. Further improving prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD is a top priority for the VA Research program. VA investigators have recently conducted some of the most pivotal research in the field. Today, Veterans with PTSD can benefit from many effective treatments which were developed and refined over the years in large part due to VA research.

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VA Research supports numerous studies designed to understand, treat, and prevent PTSD. These studies range from investigations of the genetic or biochemical underpinnings of the disease to evaluations of new or existing treatments, including large multisite clinical trials. The National Center for PTSD is a VA consortium of research centers focusing solely on the condition.

Some VA studies have improved Veterans’ lives through psychotherapeutic approaches to treat their PTSD symptoms. In one study, VA researchers showed that prolonged exposure therapy — in which therapists help patients recall their trauma under controlled conditions — was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms in women Veterans who experienced sexual trauma in the military.

“My quality of life has improved 200-fold,” says Jennifer Olds, a Veteran of the first Gulf War who participated in the study. “The research opportunity really made a significant impact on my ability to get through life.”

To complement psychotherapeutic techniques for treating PTSD, researchers sometimes use computer-simulated “virtual reality” to recreate a Veteran’s memories of traumatic events.

“We believe this has very exciting potential to treat people very quickly and in a way that makes them less vulnerable to relapse,” explains Chris Crowe, PhD, a researcher and psychologist with the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

In addition to studying psychological and virtual reality approaches to treating PTSD, VA researchers are conducting biomedical laboratory research to understand the brain changes associated with the condition. Investigators have identified proteins closely related with PTSD that may ultimately serve as markers to help in its prediction and prevention.

Among the many additional areas VA’s PTSD researchers are focusing on are:

  • “Natural language processing” technology. As part of a larger VA project using this technology, PTSD researchers are examining whether free text — such as notes entered by doctors, nurses, or other clinicians – can help clarify the way in which the disorder progresses and how symptoms may vary from one patient to the next.
  • Risperidone. VA investigators are studying the clinical usefulness of the drug risperidone in Veterans with chronic PTSD who have not responded to antidepressants, which are considered the first-line drugs for PTSD treatment.

The vital strides that VA researchers are making from these varied perspectives ultimately promise to support not only enhanced treatments for Veterans, but also for Americans in general who live through a traumatic event.

For additional information on VA and posttraumatic stress disorder, go to the National Center for PTSD website at www.ptsd.va.gov. For more information on how VA research is improving Veterans’ lives, go to www.research.va.gov.

SOURCE Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Research and Development

Source: newswire

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