By Dr. Spadoni

August 01, 2018

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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CESAMH researchers, Dr. Andrea Spadoni and her colleagues, will use functional magnetic resonance

imaging (fMRI) to examine brain functioning in Veterans with AUD who

are participating in evidence-based treatment for PTSD (i.e., Prolonged Exposure (PE)).  They are interested in seeing how TOP along with PE affects brain circuits and treatment response.  Researchers are specifically investigating if TOP affects brain circuits involved with craving alcohol and if changes in these brain areas improve the effects of PE, which targets parts of the brain that help with emotional control.  They have developed tasks that activate each of these brain areas so they can examine the brain activity in Veterans using fMRI.


This study is unique in several ways:  1) It studies the combination of medication and psychotherapy; 2) It allows researchers to study areas of the brain while Veterans are experiencing symptoms; 3) It examines PTSD in conjunction with AUD, disorders that Veterans often experience together; and 4) It will investigate the brain circuits thought to be involved in behavior change.  The findings will improve our understanding of and ability to treat Veterans who suffer from both PTSD and AUD.