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VA Researching for You

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In earlier wars, it was called "soldier's heart," "shell shock," or "combat fatigue." Today, doctors recognize the issues described by each of these terms as a distinct medical condition called posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

PTSD can occur after a traumatic event such as combat, an assault, or a natural disaster. While stress is common after a trauma, for those with PTSD reactions such as reliving an event in their mind and feeling distant or angry do not go away over time, and can even get worse.

While PTSD can affect people who have experienced a wide range of life-threatening events, in Veterans the condition is commonly associated with combat trauma. It has taken a significant toll on many war Veterans who currently use VA health care, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. Military sexual assault or harassment can also lead to PTSD. 

 VA’s PTSD Accomplishments:

• 1989: Created the National Center for PTSD to address the needs of Veterans and other trauma survivors with PTSD
• 2007: Confirmed the value of prolonged exposure therapy as a treatment for women Veterans with PTSD
• 2013: Funded, along with the Department of Defense, two consortia to improve treatment for PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)
• 2014:
o Found that cognitive processing therapy delivered via videoconferencing is as effective for PTSD as in-person therapy
o Found that Veterans who sought and received care soon after the end of their service had lower rates of PTSD than those who waited to get treatment
o Established the VA National PTSD Brain Bank

Learn more.

Below is a news story that illustrates VA’s commitment to advancing technology and research initiatives to benefit our nation’s Veterans.

 In the photo, taken at a VA research exhibit on Capitol Hill in June 2019, a VA staffer tries on a virtual reality headset. (Photo by Robert Williams)

One brain-stimulation study at the Providence VA is testing the effectiveness of combining transcranial direct current stimulation with virtual reality, a form of prolonged exposure therapy, as a treatment for Veterans with chronic PTSD. In the photo, taken at a VA research exhibit on Capitol Hill in June 2019, a VA staffer tries on a virtual reality headset. (Photo by Robert Williams)

Study: New brain stimulation technique shows promise in easing PTSD

A new study found that a form of brain stimulation that can rapidly improve communication between neurons in the brain helped ease PTSD symptoms.

The findings appeared online June 24, 2019, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers used theta-burst stimulation, a relatively new form of transcranial magnetic stimulation, on 50 Veterans with chronic PTSD. Theta-burst stimulation can be intermittent or continuous. In this case, the scientists applied it intermittently, or with breaks in the process. Doing so increases the likelihood that the neurons will be more active and will thus communicate with one another, which can potentially reduce PTSD symptoms.  Read more..

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