News and Views

 
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    PTSD/TBI Treatments Getting SMARTer

    CESAMH Investigators are exploring new approaches to understand the relationships between the brain and combat-related conditions. LEARN MORE >>

     
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  • Image from “The Exosome Explosion”, The New Scientist https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/30793/title/Exosome-Explosion/

    Understanding TBI through Blood-Based Biomarkers

    More than 360,000 armed service members sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during combat and training between 2000 and 2016. Veterans with TBI often require healthcare for years after the initial injury. Therefore, having a way to aid in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of TBI is very important. There are blood tests that can detect whether TBI has occurred, but these tests cannot provide details about TBI symptoms. CESAMH Associate Director of Neuroscience, Dr. Victoria Risbrough, and her collaborator Dr. Robert Rissman were awarded a $1.4 million VA Merit Grant to investigate new biomarkers from blood samples that may provide helpful information about TBI symptoms. They will study “exosomes,” which are vesicles (pouches containing proteins and genetic material, such as RNA) that are released from most types of cells, including brain cells. Exosomes can be used to understand the health of brain cells. Exosomes are readily detectable in blood and are promising tools for aiding diagnosis of disorders associated with nerve cell damage. Results of this study may help improve the detection and treatment for deployment-related TBI.

     
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    A Different Approach to Treating Combat-Related Conditions

    Combat stress can lead to a number of impactful emotional and cognitive conditions, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). Because symptoms of these disorders tend to overlap, they are often managed with similar medications. The most commonly prescribed medication for these conditions is Sertraline, but it has not been fully successful. To help improve treatment response, CESAMH investigators are exploring a different approach to understanding and treating the symptoms of combat-related conditions.

    Instead of using a diagnosis to determine treatment, CESAMH researchers are looking to identify the brain areas involved in producing symptoms associated with PTSD, MDD and mTBI. Their approach is to identify individuals with similar patterns in brain activity. They theorize that understanding the brain areas involved may provide more useful information about successful treatments than using traditional clinical diagnoses. This study is one of the first to link clinical research and clinical practice to best benefit our Veterans.

     
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    Medication May Improve the Benefits of PTSD Psychotherapy

    Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often have serious problems with alcohol (AUD). Recent research suggests that the medication, topiramate (TOP), may improve the benefits of therapy for those with PTSD and AUD. How TOP affects the brain areas involved in PTSD and AUD is not yet understood.

     
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    Is PTSD Associated with Earlier Aging?

    Most people think that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is only a mental health issue. However, there is evidence to show that PTSD is associated with earlier onset of age-related medical illnesses, higher risk of decline in thinking skills such as memory or problem solving, and earlier death. Researchers are now investigating the possibility that PTSD is speeding up the aging process.

     
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  • Autonomic Nervous System Dysregulation is Associated with PTSD

    Autonomic Nervous System Dysregulation is Associated with PTSD

    PTSD is a complex condition that involves several areas of the brain. But its effects go beyond the center nervous system. CESAMH researchers are investigating the ways in which PTSD interacts with other body systems. LEARN MORE>>

     
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  • PMS and MST Co-Occur with Pain in Women Veterans

    PMS and MST Co-Occur with Pain in Women Veterans

    Women veterans are more likely than men to experience military sexual trauma (MST) which often results in symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women are also more likely to experience pain. Women with severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS, symptoms right before menstruation that often include anxiety and depression) are more sensitive to pain than those without PMS. Pain and PTSD together cause worse PMS symptoms and distress than either by itself and may be worse when women have a history of sexual abuse.

     
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  • Gene Variant May Increase Psychiatric Risk After TBI

    Gene Variant May Increase Psychiatric Risk After TBI

    A variant of the APOE gene may be linked to worse psychiatric symptoms in people who have had a traumatic brain injury, found a VA San Diego Healthcare System study. Study participants with both the gene variant and at least one TBI had more severe symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression than comparison participants.

     
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  • Overcoming feelings of Guilt and Shame Associated with Combat Related PTSD

    Overcoming feelings of Guilt and Shame Associated with Combat Related PTSD

    Dr. Norman and her team developed a psychotherapy treatment aimed at changing thoughts and behaviors that become associated with post-traumatic guilt. Their intervention helps Veterans re-evaluate their behaviors with these changed ways of thinking and reasoning. It also focuses on identifying and clarifying personal values and helping the Veteran set plans to re-engage and live according to values in a meaningful way.

     
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  • Compassion Meditation for PTSD

    Compassion Meditation for PTSD

    Dr. Ariel Lang, Acting Director of CESAMH, and her collaborators have developed a compassion meditation practice for Veterans with PTSD. The main goal of compassion meditation is to foster compassion for and connectedness to other individuals, wishing both oneself and others freedom from suffering and satisfaction with their life. Veterans are viewing the program favorably, and early results show that it may help reduce PTSD symptoms.

     
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  • Mantram Repetition Program for Symptom and Stress Management

    Mantram Repetition Program for Symptom and Stress Management

    Many trauma-informed, evidence-based therapeutic interventions for PTSD have high drop-out rates and may not appeal […]

     
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  • Dr. Amy Jak and research assistant Mark Sanderson-Cimino review the SMART-CPT protocols. (Photo by Kevin Walsh)

    Treating TBI and PTSD together

    Researchers are combining an evidence-based PTSD treatment called cognitive processing therapy (CPT) with a relatively new approach to mTBI called Cognitive Symptom Management and Rehabilitation Therapy, or CogSMART for short.

     
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