Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, affects nearly 30-percent of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After they come home, these men and women often experience intense and fearful memories that they cannot forget.
New therapies are helping them reset their brains and cope with their emotions.
Two veterans, Josh Lewis and Keeshaun Coffey, saw it all.
Lewis, a retired Marine Sergeant, says, "It really changed my personality, um. War changes everybody."
Coffey, a retired Navy Religious Program Specialist, says, "I mentally and emotionally became numb to adverse situations."
Marine Sergeant Josh Lewis had four tours of duty to the Middle East.
Coffey worked as a Navy Religious Program Specialist. He saw bodies every day, but when his best friend became one of them, Coffey realized something was wrong.
He says, "I couldn't cry. I didn't know what to do."
Doctor Hart and researchers at The Center for Brain-Health have recently discovered how bad memories are stored in the brain.
Dr. Hart says, "We found these brain waves that hook the fear center to the memory centers."
When the fear center of the brain, called the amygdala, attaches to memory parts, it sends a signal with a rhythm of four hertz. To disrupt this signal, doctors are using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.
A device is placed on the participants head. A slow electrical current travels to the frontal part of the brain to target the amygdala and reduce the fear areas attaching to the memory area.
Another way to help is a method called cognitive processing therapy. First, participants talk about their fears and relive them in a safe setting.
Lewis participated in this smart training and went from having a headache every six weeks to having one every six months.
While Coffey says the magnetics treatment has helped him cope with his emotions, he says, "I can definitely grieve and show emotion now."
Two men, who have seen the worst, but will not let it get the best of them.
As part of a clinical study, the repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatments are coupled with the cognitive processing therapy and given once a week for 12 weeks.
Dr. Hart says he is currently enrolling patients in the Dallas area, and there is no cost for the treatments or therapy sessions.
MIND WORKS: RESETTING PTSD BRAINS (Short)
BACKGROUND: When in danger, a person's natural response is to be afraid. This fear triggers many changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it, which is a healthy reaction. However, in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this reaction is damaged or changed. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are no longer in danger. PTSD develops after a terrifying experience that involved physical harm or the threat of harm. It can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as rape, mugging, torture, being kidnapped, child abuse, train wrects, plane crashes, bombings, natural disasters, and war. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report in 2012 that revealed that since 9/11 about 30 percent of the 800,000 plus Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD. (Source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml and http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/21/nearly-30-of-vets-treated-by-v-a-have-ptsd.html)
CAUSES: Currently, researchers are focusing on genes that play a role in creating fear memories. Understanding how the memories are created may help to find new interventions for reducing the symptoms of PTSD. For instance, researchers have pinpointed genes that make stathmin, a protein needed to form fear memories. In one study, mice that did not make the protein were less likely to "freeze," a natural response to danger, after being exposed to a fearful experience. The mice also showed less innate fear by exploring open spaces more willingly than normal mice. Scientists have also found a version of the 5-HTTLPR gene, which controls levels of serotonin (a brain chemical related to mood-that appears to fuel the fear response). Like other mental disorders, it is likely that many genes with small effects are at work in PTSD. (Source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml)
NEW RESEARCH: The Center for BrainHealth is studying the efficacy of a therapeutic approach to treat veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD. Researchers are combining cognitive processing therapy (CPT) with magnetic stimulation (repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulations rTMS) to reduce PTSD symptoms. Researchers say the threatening feelings once triggered are lessened by rTMS treatments and cognitive therapies during periods when patients are not overly emotional. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is FDA approved for the treatment of certain anxiety and depressive disorders. Researchers place the device on the patient's head. A slow electric current travels to the frontal lobe to target the amygdala-fear center of the brain-and stop the fear area from attaching to the memory area. CPT will re-train the patient's response to stimuli that produce hyper arousal symptoms that are a core feature of PTSD. Researchers are currently recruiting in the Dallas area. For more information on enrolling, call Cedric Jones, USMC, at 972-883-3317. (Source: http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/research/participate/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-in-returning-service-members)
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Public Relations Director
Center for BrainHealth
The University of Texas at Dallas