Novel approach to treating post-traumatic stress disorder
A novel approach of using visual and physical stimulus to help military veterans address their traumatic experiences could soon play a significant role in helping British veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), thanks to a new Cardiff University research project.
Funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and supported by Health and Care Research Wales, the study is seeking to help veterans who have not responded to current PTSD treatments.
The two-year study is investigating the effectiveness of a new therapy known as 3MDR, where patients walk on a treadmill whilst interacting with a series of self-selected images that are related to their trauma, and displayed on a large screen. The aim of this therapy is to help patients learn how to move through their avoidance by, literally, approaching their traumatic memories.
Psychological therapy with a focus on the traumatic event is the treatment of choice for PTSD and can be very helpful but, unfortunately, treatment resistance is high. Preliminary results from research conducted in the Netherlands suggest that 3MDR may help veterans with treatment resistant, combat-related PTSD. The aim of the new study is to determine the efficacy of 3MDR in the treatment of British military veterans with treatment-resistant and combat-related PTSD and to explore what factors influence outcome.
Led by Professor Jonathan Bisson of the Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at Cardiff University's School of Medicine, the study is being carried out in a specially designed laboratory, with the trial therapy being delivered to veterans in contact with Veterans NHS Wales. The researchers hope that exposure to traumatic memories, enhanced with walking, music and high effect pictures, will eliminate cognitive avoidance – a coping strategy that can contribute to the worsening of PTSD symptoms.
Professor Jonathan Bisson, Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at Cardiff University School of Medicine, said: "There is an urgent need to identify effective treatments for military veterans who do not respond to, or are unable to engage with, current first line treatments.
"Around 4% of British military veterans suffer from PTSD, which often causes significant distress to them and those around them, along with considerable financial and social impact. This new method of treatment could offer new hope for veterans with PTSD who are currently facing the prospect of life with a chronic and enduring disorder."
Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, added: "Improving our understanding of veterans' mental health and effective treatments has been a priority of the Forces in Mind Trust since the Trust's inception. PTSD has a major impact on the quality of life of a small minority of veterans and it is important that we look at new and viable ways of helping some of those people whose mental health issues can be the hardest to treat. This is an exciting and innovative approach justifying further exploration which we are very pleased to support."
During the study, researchers are regularly assessing the symptoms of PTSD in patients receiving treatment in order to measure its clinical efficacy. The findings will be presented in a report at the end of the project.
Notes for Editors
1. Media contact:
Julia Short, Communications and Marketing, Cardiff University, Tel: 02920 875596, Email: [email protected]
2. About the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT):
FiMT came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund ('the Fund'), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations. FiMT continues the Fund's long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012. http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/.
The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life, and it delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery.
FiMT awards grants (for both responsive and commissioned work) to support its change model around 6 outcomes in the following areas: Housing; Employment; Health and wellbeing; Finance; Criminal Justice System; and Relationships.
All work is published in open access and hosted on the Veterans' Research Hub. A high standard of reportage is demanded of all grant holders so as to provide a credible evidence base from which better informed decisions can be made. http://www.fim-trust.org
3. About Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain's leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK's most research intensive universities. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework ranked the University 5th in the UK for research excellence. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University's breadth of expertise encompasses: the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences; and the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, along with a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff's flagship Research Institutes are offering radical new approaches to pressing global problems. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk