Recent Developments in the Treatment of PTSD

A new system, currently known as Motion-Assisted, Multi-Modal Memory Desensitization and Reconsolidation (3MDR) may prove to be a break through in the treatment of soldiers suffering from PTSD.  Dr. Eric Vermetten, a Dutch psychiatrist and researcher, has developed a treatment approach that incorporates “Virtual Reality Exposure (VRE) and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and adds motion to the condition” (Vermetten E, et al. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2013).

In this treatment, combat trauma patients walk on a treadmill in a dark room, surrounded by a video screen on all sides.  Through a series of computer-generated virtual environments, they are exposed to the sounds and sights (selected by the patients) that “remind them of the events that brought on their traumatic memories . . . With their therapist present to guide them and direct them, the patient is asked a series of questions as they walk on the treadmill, steadily and continuously toward the images that bring back their trauma, forcing them to confront their painful memories.”

The patients receive exposure therapy and EMDR, but get to approach the events that traumatized them by walking on the treadmill, rather than avoiding the feared memories or having them intrude upon them.  In addition, it may be that the walking serves to alter the body’s interpretation of the anxiety (fear response) caused by the exposure.

The treatment has been tested on about 25 patients, with very positive results.  It is an exciting development in the world of trauma, especially in a population that can be particularly challenging to treat.

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/politics/experimental-ptsd-therapy-gets-traumatized-soldiers-walking-toward-relief-1.3100782
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23792857/