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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Emory University Investigates New Iraq Vet PTSD Treatment

A recent press release from Emory University broadcasts the news that researchers are studying a new form of treatment program hoping to help returning combat veterans coping with PTSD get better quicker. The treatment program combines the drug d-cycloserine (DCS) and virtual reality therapy to temper the fear associated with and power of traumatic memories.

[UPDATE - Aug 13, 2008]: New study details.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From WebWire:

Emory University researchers will embark on a study they hope will enhance the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and help soldiers who are affected get better faster. The risk for PTSD among Iraq War veterans is estimated to be 18 percent, according to a 2004 study that examined the mental health impact of the war. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD among American Vietnam war veterans is 30.9 percent for men and 26.9 percent for women. PTSD is a serious condition that can become a chronic problem, with devastating life-altering effects on soldiers and their families.

Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, ABPP, and Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, will lead a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) using the drug d-cycloserine (DCS) combined with virtual reality therapy.

DCS binds to neurotransmitter receptors in the amygdala called NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors. The mechanisms governing the fear response are located in that region of the brain. Previous rodent studies of DCS by Dr. Ressler and Michael Davis, PhD, of Emory School of Medicine, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience have shown that it has a positive effect on the extinction of fear. The first trial using DCS with Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for acrophobia, or fear of heights, was completed in 2004, and was very successful.

"We were very excited about the results of the acrophobia study and we are delighted to have the opportunity to move forward with the PTSD study," says Dr. Rothbaum, a professor of psychiatry and director of Emory’s Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program. "A large part of the problem PTSD patients have is the fear of the memory itself. Although the memories will never really go away, we believe that the DCS will make it easier for patients to learn how not to fear their memories."

Co-investigators in the study will include Michael Davis, PhD, Erica Duncan, MD and Maryrose Gerardi, PhD, all faculty members of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

"Persons with PTSD experience both psychological and physical effects, and just like any other illness, PTSD can worsen and become harder to treat the longer someone waits to be treated," says Dr. Ressler. "We hope this study will open up some new doors that will help us get people back to their normal lives as soon as possible."

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