Ongoing Research Study for Veterans with PTSD

by Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin
Center for Collaborative Brain Research at Bradley University

Researchers at Bradley University are evaluating measures for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Between September 2001 and August 2011, more than 2.3 million American military personnel were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both. The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among these veterans ranged between 13 and 17 percent. Only 23 to 40 percent of veterans diagnosed with a mental disorder sought mental healthcare.

War veterans who have experienced active duty are also more likely to experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Head trauma is a risk factor for developing a seizure disorder, and TBI doubles a veteran’s risk of developing PTSD.

Low motivation to seek mental healthcare has been attributed to stigma, lengthy waiting periods, inconsistent results from current treatments, length of time in treatment, and the high rate of relapse. In light of the frustration veterans and their families may experience with current treatments, new options are needed that are non-invasive, efficient and effective.

PTSD Treatment Research
A Bradley University research team, led by Drs. Lori Russell-Chapin, Nancy Sherman, Celia Johnson and Nicole Pacheco, is currently working with veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. The project focuses on a 30-veteran treatment and control group design, with pre- and post-testing for symptoms of PTSD. The treatment timeframe lasts approximately three weeks.

Thus far, 17 veterans have gone through the treatment protocols; recruitment will continue until 30 qualified subjects have been identified. Veterans are selected from a pool of those identified through local veteran groups who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Interested subjects are screened using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI 6.0), and those with co-occurring conditions will be excluded.

Participants will be admitted to the study based on three criteria: a previous diagnosis of PTSD, symptoms manifesting primarily as an automatic phobic-type response, and scores greater than 36 on the PTSD Checklist – Military Version (PCL-M) and greater than 15 on the Posttraumatic Symptom Scale – Interview (PSS-I). The screeners are experienced mental health clinicians who have received additional training on the use of these assessment measures.

Evaluation Measures
Participants meeting the inclusion criteria will be randomly assigned to either a wait-list control group or an experimental, non-invasive treatment group. To measure change in brain functioning, all participants will be scanned using a 19 Channel Electroencephalograph (EEG), both pre- and post-treatment.

To ensure treatment fidelity and provide an added measure of symptom evaluation, all treatment sessions will be video-recorded. Those recordings will be evaluated for changes in participant physiology accompanying treatment and post-treatment testing, and for the later development of treatment fidelity scales. Analyses will compare pre- and post- within group changes and between group changes.

Measures to guarantee the safety and comfort of participants include on-site access to licensed mental health clinicians and 24-hour hotline access to Emergency Response Services. Participants will be screened for the risk of suicide and violence before and after treatment. Those who complete the study will receive $100 in compensation. If you know of a veteran who might be interested in learning more or participating in the research study, call (309) 677-3186. iBi

Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin is a professor at Bradley University and co-director of the Center for Collaborative Brain Research.

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