Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Mental Health Research, NIH / 19.04.2024 Interview with: Sharon Dekel PhD Principal Investigator Director of the Postpartum Traumatic Stress Disorders Research Program Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School Boston, MA, 02114 What is the background for this study? Response: Maternal psychopathologies affect a significant number of American women and are the leading complications of childbirth and a significant contributor to maternal death. Maternal (physical) morbidity in the US remain the highest among all countries in the West, suggesting that some women will have a traumatic childbirth experience. The most common mental illness associated with trauma is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD stemming from childbirth is estimated to affect 6% of delivering women ( In high-risk groups, for example women who have unscheduled Cesareans the rate is estimated at 20% or higher ( Although we screen for postpartum depression in hospitals in the USA there is no screening for what we define as childbirth-related PTSD (CB-PTSD). The overarching goal of the Dekel Lab is to develop novel and patient-friendly screening tools to identify women with this disorder. As importantly traumatic childbirth disproportionality affects Black and Latina women ( (more…)
PTSD / 06.10.2023

Even when you have had the best military training available it is almost impossible to prepare your mind and body for the violence and traumatic experiences you might endure during active service. The threat of PTSD and other health issues is very real, such as veterans experiencing shell shock and still trying to process that experience many years later. Here is a look at some of the main health issues that a veteran might experience. Mental health challenges ptsd-veterans-warWearing the physical scars of war is just one side of the story. Many veterans can suffer significant mental health challenges long after they retire from active duty. The very real threat of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been well publicized in recent years. It is estimated that PTSD affects as many as 15% of veterans who fought in the Iraq war, for instance. Depression and alcohol abuse are other mental health issues faced by a percentage of veterans. (more…)
Author Interviews, PLoS, PTSD / 27.07.2022 Interview with: Clare Jensen O’Haire Research Team Center for the Human-Animal Bond Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine  What is the background for this study?  Response: Service dogs for PTSD are becoming more common and the evidence shows they can help improve mental health and quality of life for many veterans with PTSD. However, some veterans benefit more than others. Our research goal was to ask for the very first time: Why? (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Depression, Mental Health Research, PTSD / 07.05.2021 Interview with: João Mauricio Castaldelli-Maia, MD, PhD (he/him) NIDA INVEST Drug Abuse Research Fellow Policy and Health Initiatives on Opioids and Other Substances (PHIOS) Department of Epidemiology Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University New York, NY 10032 What is the background for this study? Response:     It remains unclear whether COVID-19 is associated with psychiatric symptoms during or after the acute illness phase. Being affected by the disease exposes the individual to an uncertain prognosis and a state of quarantine. These factors can predispose individuals to the development of mental symptoms during or after the acute phase of the disease. There is a need for prospective studies assessing psychiatric symptoms in COVID-19 patients in the post-infection period. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Mental Health Research, Nature, PTSD / 21.10.2020 Interview with: Amit Etkin, MD, PhD Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, Stanford Universitu Stanford, CA What is the mission of Cohen Veterans Bioscience - CVB?  Cohen Veterans Bioscience Response: Cohen Veterans Bioscience (CVB) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) research biotech dedicated to fast-tracking the development of diagnostic tests and personalized therapeutics for the millions of Veterans and civilians who suffer the devastating effects of trauma-related and other brain disorders. To learn about CVB’s research efforts visit How can patients with PTSD or MDD benefit from this information? Response: With the discovery of this new brain imaging biomarker, patients who suffer from PTSD or MDD may be guided towards the most effective treatment without waiting months and months to find a treatment that may work for them. What is the background for this study? Response: This study, which was supported with a grant from Cohen Veterans Bioscience, grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH and other supporters, derives from our work over the past few years which has pointed to the critical importance of understanding how patients with a variety of psychiatric disorders differ biologically. The shortcomings of our current diagnostic system have become very clear over the past 1-2 decades, but the availability of tools for transcending these limitations on the back of objective biological tests has not kept pace with the need for those tools. In prior work, we have used a variety of methods, including different types of brain imaging, to identify brain signals that underpin key biological differences within and across traditional psychiatric diagnoses. We have also developed specialized AI tools for decoding complex patterns of brain activity in order to understand and quantify biological heterogeneity in individual patients. These developments have then, in turn, converged with the completion of a number of large brain imaging-coupled clinical trials, which have provided a scale of these types of data not previously available in the field. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, PTSD, Surgical Research / 20.11.2019 Interview with: Michael A. Vella, M.D., M.B.A. Assistant Professor of Surgery Division of Acute Care Surgery and Trauma University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry What is the background for this study? Response: There is a lot of (appropriate) focus on the mortality statistics related to gun violence, but sometimes we forget about the large number of survivors of gunshot wounds.  We wanted to specifically look at the long term physical and mental health outcomes in this patient population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, JAMA, PTSD / 21.08.2019 Interview with: Jeff Scherrer, Ph.D. Associate professor; Research director Department of Family and Community Medicine Saint Louis University Center for Health Outcomes Research What is the background for this study? Response: This study was part of a larger NIH grant to determine if PTSD is associated with poor health behaviors and subsequently whether PTSD remains an independent risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.  Our second focus of the grant was to measure if those patients who experience clinically meaningful PTSD improvement have improved health behaviors (e.g. seeking help to lose weight) and a lower risk for diabetes and heart disease. The rationale for this study of PTSD improvement and lower risk for diabetes is supported from other investigators' findings that PTSD treatment completion is often followed by improvement in sleep, depression, pain and general physical complaints and lower blood pressure.  Because we have found the association between PTSD and incident diabetes is largely explained by obesity, depression and other comorbid conditions that are more common in patients with vs. without PTSD, we hypothesized that improvements in PTSD would be associated with lower risk of diabetes either directly or due to improvements in these comorbid diabetes risk factors. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, PTSD / 13.06.2019 Interview with: Dr. Heike Gerger | Senior Postdoc University of Basel | Faculty of Psychology | Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Basel | Switzerland What is the background for this study? Response: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most prevalent mental disorders, with a high risk of chronicity, comorbidity, and functional impairment. PTSD is complicated to treat, and the debate on the most efficacious treatment approach is ongoing. Treatment guidelines for the treatment of PTSD typically recommend different types of trauma-focused psychotherapeutic treatments as first-line PTSD treatment. However, concerning pharmacological therapies recommendations are inconsistent. (more…)
Author Interviews, NYU, PTSD, Technology / 22.04.2019 Interview with: Charles R. Marmar, MD The Lucius N. Littauer Professor Chair of the Department of Psychiatry NYU Langone School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Several studies in recent years have attempted to identify biological markers that distinguish individuals with PTSD, with candidate markers including changes in brain cell networks, genetics, neurochemistry, immune functioning, and psychophysiology. Despite such advances, the use of biomarkers for diagnosing PTSD remained elusive going into the current study, and no physical marker was applied in the clinic. Our study is the first to compare speech in an age and gender matched sample of a military population with and without PTSD, in which PTSD was assessed by a clinician, and in which all patients did not have a major depressive disorder. Because measuring voice qualities in non-invasive, inexpensive and might be done over the phone, many labs have sought to design speech-based diagnostic tools  (more…)
Author Interviews, Lancet, Mental Health Research, PTSD / 16.11.2018 Interview with: Sanford Nidich, Ed.D. Director, Center for Social-Emotional Health Maharishi University of Management Research Institute Fairfield, Iowa What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex and difficult-to-treat disorder, affecting 10-20% of veterans across eras. Previous research raised the question of whether a non-trauma focused treatment can be as effective as trauma exposure therapy in reducing PTSD symptoms. The overall objective of the study was to compare Transcendental Meditation (TM), a non-trauma focused practice, to prolonged exposure (PE) in a non-inferiority clinical trial, and to compare both to a PTSD health education control group. Transcendental Meditation was found to be as effective as PE in reducing PTSD symptoms severity from baseline to three-month posttest. In standard superiority comparisons, significant reductions in PTSD symptoms were found for TM vs. HE, and PE vs. HE. Percentages of participants with clinically significant improvement, as measured by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) interview (≥10 point reduction), were TM=61%, PE=42%, and HE=32%  (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, JAMA, PTSD, Weight Research / 09.08.2018 Interview with: Jeff Scherrer, Ph.D. Associate professor; Research director Department of Family and Community Medicine Saint Louis University Center for Health Outcomes Research What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The rationale for this study comes from evidence that patients with PTSD are more likely to be obese than persons without PTSD and have more difficulty losing weight. Given the obesity epidemic and substantial role of obesity in risk of type 2 diabetes, we sought to determine if obesity accounted for the existing evidence that PTSD is a risk factor for incident type 2 diabetes.  Other studies have adjusted for obesity or BMI in models that control for obesity/BMI and other confounders simultaneously which prohibits measuring the independent role of obesity on the ass (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Karolinski Institute, Mental Health Research, PTSD, Rheumatology / 21.06.2018 Interview with: Huan Song Associated Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics Karolinska Institutet What is the background for this study? Response: Earlier findings from our group (e.g. Fang et al., NEJM 2012; Arnberg et al., Lancet Psychiatry 2015; Lu et al., JAMA Oncol 2016; Shen et al., BMJ 2016; Zhu et al., Ann Oncol 2017) have identified pathways through which stressful events contribute to deterioration in human health. With strong animal models and human data supporting a role of stress in immune dysregulation, the hypothesis linking mental distress with autoimmune is indeed plausible. However, the evidence is as yet limited to clinical observations and a few larger observational studies on US veterans, most of them on men only, and some of which have cross-sectional designs and various other methodological shortcomings. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Occupational Health, PTSD / 02.03.2018 Interview with: Dr. Lori Davis, MD Research and Development Service, Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa, Alabama What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) interfere with a person’s ability to function at work, making it harder to stay employed and establish oneself in a career.  Veterans with PTSD are uniquely challenged given their motivation to serve others, be leaders and not be generally receptive to reaching out for help. Conventional wisdom about PTSD and employment has traditionally been to first commit to treatment, learn coping skills, manage one’s symptoms and then reintegrate into mainstream employment. However, this view is being transformed by our research that suggests a more assertive recovery-oriented approach to the treatment of PTSD that involves returning to meaningful competitive employment as soon as possible. This study compared Evidence-based Supported Employment (also known as Individual Placement and Support or IPS) integrated within PTSD treatment teams to the treatment as usual Transitional Work model offered within the VA. This multisite trial demonstrated significantly greater effectiveness of the IPS-supported employment over stepwise, transitional work vocational rehabilitation for Veterans living with chronic PTSD. (more…)
Author Interviews, NYU, PLoS / 15.02.2018 Interview with: Glenn N. Saxe, MD Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Child Study Center, One Park Avenue New York, NY 10016 What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by brain entropy and how it relates to intelligence? Response: Think of human intelligence as the capacity for a human being to understand their complex and ever-changing world. The world of a person is really complex and constantly in flux so the human brain must be ready to understand whatever may come – when there is no way beforehand to predict what might come. How does the brain understand its world? It creates specific models of the information it receives through specific patterns of neuronal connection. These are called brain states. The way the brain understands its world is largely through using such models, or brain states, to accurately predict what comes next. So you can see that for an intelligent brain to properly understand and predict events in the world, it will need to have access to a very, very large number of brain states. And this is how entropy is defined. Entropy is a very old and very powerful concept in the history of science. Not only is it fundamental for thermodynamics – what we learned in high school physics – but it is also fundamental for the nature of information and it’s processing. Entropy is defined as the number of states – or distinct configurations – any system has access to at any point in time. High entropy means access to a very large number of states. Low entropy means access to a very small number of states. A solid is a phenomenon with very low entropy. A gas is a phenomenon with very high entropy. Life, and the brain, are somewhere in between. Although it is impossible to precisely measure the number of states a brain has access to at any one moment, there is a highly related concept that can be measured. A system with access to a very high number of possible states (like a gas) has components with behavior that is highly unpredictable. A system with access to very few possible states (like a solid) has components whose behavior is highly predictable. We measured brain entropy through the predictability of the brains components at the smallest scale we had access to: what are called voxels in an fMRI scan. These are 3mm cubes of neurons in a functional MRI scan, and there are many thousands of these voxels in our measurement and each of these voxels contains information on the activity of hundreds of thousands of neurons. We measured the predictability of each of these voxels and then found clusters of voxels where their predictability - or entropy - was related to intelligence. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, PTSD / 23.01.2018 Interview with: “Man’s best friend helps NC Guardsman with PTSD [Image 1 of 8]” by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0, PhD Professor of Psychiatry Director, Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pa 19104 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: As much as 10 to 20 percent of military members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks suffer from PTSD, which is often chronic and incapacitating. A constant increase in the number of individuals suffering from PTSD as a result of massive natural disasters, terror attacks, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has prompted an urgent need for effective and efficient evidence-based treatments for PTSD. Prolong exposure (PE) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that involves exposure to trauma memories and daily life trauma reminders. Previous studies have proven PE is quite effective for treating civilians and veterans with PTSD. In this five-year study, the researchers sought to determine whether PE could have similar success with active-duty military personnel. The researchers examined the benefit of various methods for delivering PE including Massed-PE, (10 therapy sessions administered over two weeks) and Spaced-PE (10 sessions administered over 8 weeks), as well as Present Centered Therapy (PCT), a non-trauma-focused therapy that involves identifying and discussing daily stressors in 10 sessions over eight weeks, and Minimal Contact Control (MCC), which included supportive phone calls from therapists once weekly for four weeks. Patients who received Massed-PE therapy, delivered over two weeks, saw a greater reduction in PTSD symptoms than those who received MCC. Importantly, Massed-PE therapy was found to be equally effective to Spaced-PE in reducing PTSD symptom severity. The researchers also found that PCT might be an effective treatment option for PTSD in active military personnel although it was less effective than PE in veteran and civilian PTSD sufferers.  (more…)
Author Interviews, PTSD, Technology / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Dr. Gale Lucas, PhD Director of Research USC Institute for Creative Technologies Playa Vista, CA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A common barrier to healthcare for psychiatric conditions is the stigma associated with these disorders. Perceived stigma prevents many from reporting their symptoms. Stigma is a particularly pervasive problem among military service members, preventing them from reporting symptoms of combat-related conditions like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This put them at risk for having their symptoms go untreated, with possible disastrous outcomes including suicide attempts. We envisioned a technology system – a virtual human interviewer – whereby military service members can get feedback about their risk for PTSD in a safe place without stigma. Indeed, our prior research has shown that, because its “just a computer” (therefore safe and anonymous), this virtual human interviewer helps people to feel safe discussing sensitive issues like mental health symptoms. In this follow-up research project (published in Frontiers), we sought to demonstrate the value of this kind of virtual human interviewer specifically for encouraging reporting of PTSD symptoms among service members. Specifically, we were interested in comparing the willingness of service members to report symptoms of PTSD to our virtual human interviewer, compared to the gold standard of the Post Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA). We wanted to isolate the effect of anonymity, separating it from “relational factors” that the virtual human interviewer uses to encourage service members to open up. Indeed, before asking these same questions as on the PDHA to capture PTSD symptoms, the system engages in social dialogue, which build rapport with users. The system asks “get to know you questions,” and throughout the interview, engage in active listening with responses such as nods, smiles, saying “uh huh,” and other encouraging phrases like “that’s great.” (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, PTSD / 06.10.2017 Interview with: Gregory H. Cohen, MPhil, MSW Statistical Analyst Department of Epidemiology School of Public Health Boston University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We simulated a stepped care case-finding approach to the treatment of posttraumatic stress in New York City, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Stepped care includes an initial triage screening step which identifies whether a presenting individual is in need of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or can be adequately treated at a lower level of care. Our simulation suggests that a stepped care approach to treating symptoms of posttraumatic stress in the aftermath of a hurricane is superior to care as usual in terms of reach and treatment-effectiveness, while being cost-effective. (more…)
Author Interviews, Memory, PTSD / 17.08.2017 Interview with: Jun-Hyeong Cho MD PhD Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA 92521 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: To survive in a dynamic environment, animals develop fear responses to dangerous situations. For these adaptive fear responses to be developed, the brain must discriminate between different sensory cues and associate only relevant stimuli with aversive events. In our current study, we investigated the neural mechanism how the brain does this, using a mouse model of fear learning and memory. Our study demonstrates that the formation of fear memory associated with an auditory cue requires selective synaptic strengthening in neural pathways that convey the auditory signals to the amygdala, an essential brain area for fear learning and memory. (more…)
Author Interviews, Emory, PTSD / 09.06.2017 Interview with: Jennifer Stevens, PhD Director, Neuroscience of Memory, Emotion, and Stress Laboratory Instructor, Dept of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Emory University School of Medicine What is the background for this study?  Response: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was once thought to be a disorder of combat veterans, however, we now know that more than 60% of Americans experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes, and that this can have negative consequences for mental and physical health. Many people recover from the psychological effects of trauma without any intervention, but a significant proportion have long-lasting debilitating symptoms. Supported by the NIH, the cutting edge of PTSD research includes new strategies for preventing the disease, rather than treating PTSD after patients have been living with symptoms for months to years. In order to prevent the disease, it is critical that we are able to quickly identify people who will be at risk for the disease following a trauma, so that preventive strategies can be deployed bedside in the emergency room or in the battlefield. In the current study, we used functional MRI to predict which individuals would recover from trauma, and which individuals would have long-lasting symptoms of PTSD. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, PTSD, Stanford / 25.04.2017 Interview with: Laramie E Duncan, PhD Stanford University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that some people experience after a traumatic event, like a terrorist attack, military conflict, or violence in the home. When people have PTSD, they may experience flashbacks to the traumatic event, nightmares, and other recollections of the event that can interfere with their day-to-day lives. Before this study, not everyone was convinced that genetic factors make some people more prone to developing PTSD than others. Using a study of over 20,000 people and analyzing over two hundred billion (200,000,000,000) pieces of genetic information, we demonstrated that developing PTSD is partly genetic. We also found that genetic factors seem to play a stronger role for women than men, though for everyone, experiencing trauma is still the most important factor. (more…)
Author Interviews, Memory, Nature, PTSD / 05.04.2017 Interview with: Dominik R Bach, PhD, MD University of Zurich What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after a psychological trauma such as physical violence, abuse, or natural disaster. It is characterised by increased arousal, flashbacks, and nightmares that reflect memories of the trauma. Current therapies include talking therapy, but it is costly and does not work in everybody. This is why we were looking for ways of reducing aversive memories with a drug. In the current study, we found that the antibiotic doxycycline impairs the formation of negative memories in healthy volunteers. To form memories, the brain needs to strengthen connections between neurons. It has recently emerged that for strengthening such connections particular proteins are required that sit between nerve cells, so-called MMPs. They are involved in many disorders outside the brain, such as certain cancers and heart disease. This is how we already know that doxycycline suppresses the activity of MMPs. Since doxycycline is relatively safe and readily accessible, our research was relatively straightforward. 76 healthy volunteers - half women, half men - came to the laboratory and received either placebo (a sugar pill) or 200 mg doxycycline. They then took part in a computer test in which one screen color was often followed by a mildly painful electric shock and another color was not. A week later, volunteers came back to the lab. They were shown the colors again , this time followed by a loud sound but never by shocks. The loud sounds made people blink their eyes - a reflexive response to sudden threat. This eye blink response was measured. Volunteers who had initially been under placebo had stronger eye blink after the color that predicted electric shock than after the other color. This "fear response" is a sensitive measure for memory of negative associations. Strikingly, the fear response was 60% lower in participants who had initially taken doxycycline. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, Gender Differences / 20.02.2017 Interview with: Jeanne Mager Stellman, PhD Professor Emerita & Special Lecturer Department of Health Policy & Management Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University York NY 10032 What is the background for this study? Response: We examined the experiences of 1285 American women, military and civilian, who served in Vietnam during the war and responded to a mail survey conducted approximately 25 years later in which they were asked to report and reflect upon their experiences and social and health histories. The data were collected as part of a much larger study that centered about methodological approaches to studying health effects of the military herbicides used in Vietnam. To our knowledge, this is the first study (a) to describe the experiences of civilian women deployed to a war zone and to compare them to those of military women; (b) to differentiate the experiences and outcomes among military women by the length of their military career service; (c) to contextualize the general health and happiness, marital characteristics, and childbearing patterns of women deployed to Vietnam and those of their peers by comparing them to a contemporaneous nationally representative age-matched cohort, the General Social Survey (GSS). Overall, this paper provides insight into the experiences of the understudied women who served in Vietnam, and sheds light on subgroup differences within the sample. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, Mental Health Research, Nature, PTSD / 14.02.2017 Interview with: Christine Ann Denny, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Psychiatry Columbia University Division of Integrative Neuroscience Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Inc. New York, NY 10032-2695 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses, affecting about 8 million adult Americans, and an annual prevalence of about 3.5% worldwide. At-risk populations such as soldiers and veterans are at a higher risk to develop PTSD. Stress exposure is one of the major risk factors for PTSD and major depressive disorder (MDD), a disorder which is often co-morbid with PTSD. There are currently very limited treatments for PTSD and MDD. In addition, these disorders are treated in a symptom-suppression approach, which only mitigate symptoms and work in only a small fraction of patients. Prevention is rarely an approach considered except in the form of behavioral intervention. However, pharmacological approaches to preventing psychiatric diseases has not yet been developed. Our laboratory has previously found that ketamine, a general anesthetic and rapid-acting antidepressant, administered sub-anesthetically prior to stress can prevent against stress-induced depressive-like behaviors. We decided to delve into the literature to determine whether ketamine has any effects on PTSD in the clinic. We found numerous reports linking ketamine to PTSD, but the results were varied. We realized that the main difference in all of these studies was the timing of administration. We decided to systematically test the efficacy of ketamine in mice at various time points relative to a stressor to determine when would be the most effective window to buffer against heightened fear expression. We found that ketamine administered 1 week, but not 1 month or 1 day, prior to a stressor was the most effective time point to administer the drug to buffer fear. This is critical, as it suggests that a pharmacological approach to enhance resilience can be more effective at protecting against PTSD symptoms than attempting to mitigate symptoms after it has already affected an individual. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, PTSD / 27.01.2017 Interview with: David Mataix-Cols PhD Centre for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Health Care Services, Stockholm County Council Stockholm, Sweden What is the background for this study? Response: Exposure-based Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for patients with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorders. Some patients do not respond sufficiently to such treatment. This has led researchers to find ways to augment (enhance) CBT with pharmacological agents, such as D-cycloserine (DCS). Because CBT is such a powerful treatment for most patients, we suspected that the effects of DCS would probably be small. This means that very large samples of patients are needed to show statistically significant differences between groups. Previous studies and meta-analyses were underpowered to detect such small effects. Combining the raw data from all available studies to date gave us the power we needed to address the question of whether DCS is an efficacious augmenting strategy, over and above CBT. We also had a second research question. Previous research from our group had suggested that there may be undesirable interactions between DCS and antidepressants, whereby patients taking both types of drugs would have significantly worse outcomes (see Andersson et al JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Jul;72(7):659-67. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0546). (more…)
Author Interviews, PTSD, Sleep Disorders / 19.07.2016 Interview with: Jim Burch, MS, PhD Associate Professor Dept. of Epidemiology & Biostatistics Cancer Prevention & Control Program Arnold School of Public Health University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC and Health Science Specialist WJB Dorn Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Columbia, SC What is the background for this study? Response: Over 21 million Veterans live in the U.S., and nearly 9 million of them receive healthcare through the Veterans Health Administration, which is the largest integrated healthcare system in the U.S. The military population is particularly vulnerable to sleep disturbances due to their work schedules, living conditions, and other physical and psychological factors that accompany their jobs. However, previous studies have not comprehensively described the scope and characteristics of sleep disorders among Veterans. Sleep is considered a physiological necessity. Inadequate sleep has been associated with a wide range of adverse health outcomes, including an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, psychiatric disorders, reduced quality of life, and increased mortality. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA, PTSD / 01.07.2016 Interview with: Bradley E. Belsher, Ph.D. Chief of Research Translation and Integration, Deployment Health Clinical Center, Defense Center of Excellence for PH and TBI Research Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: One out of five U.S. military service members returning from overseas military conflicts meets screening criteria for at least one mental health condition, yet fewer than half of service members will receive help from a mental health professional. The consequences of inadequate mental health treatment are considerable and can lead to significant social and functional problems for service members and their families. In response to these mounting concerns, the Military Health System (MHS) has increased efforts to expand and improve the identification and treatment of mental health disorders. Given that the average service member visits primary care three times each year, the MHS has invested considerable resources into the integration of mental health services into the primary care setting. Collaborative care is an effective model for integrating mental health services into primary care and has demonstrated effectiveness in treating different mental health conditions to include depression and anxiety disorders. However, no previous studies have examined whether the concept can work in the MHS. Recently, the first large-scale, randomized effectiveness trial evaluating an integrated health care model in primary care for PTSD and depression in the DoD was conducted. This trial randomized 666 military members treated across six large Army bases to a centrally-assisted collaborative telecare (CACT) approach for PTSD and depression or to the existing standard of care (usual collaborative care). This effectiveness trial targeted a large population of service members as they came into primary care and minimized exclusion criteria to improve the generalizability of the findings and broaden the applicable reach of the intervention. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, PTSD / 18.03.2016 Interview with: Donna L. Littlewood PhD Student School of Psychological Sciences University of Manchester, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Every year over 800,000 people die by suicide, and for every individual’s death, it is estimated that another 20 people will make a suicide attempt. Therefore, to be able to prevent suicide, we need to understand the different factors that can combine to make an individual think about ending their own life. Recent research indicates that nightmares are associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and that this association is independent of other related suicide risk factors, such as, depression and PTSD. However, it is now important for research to examine the mechanisms that underpin this association, as this information will support the development of clinical interventions to prevent subsequent suicide attempts and deaths (more…)
Author Interviews, Critical Care - Intensive Care - ICUs, PTSD, Vanderbilt / 07.01.2016 Interview with: Mayur Patel, MD, MPH, FACS Assistant Professor of Surgery & Neurosurgery Vanderbilt University Medical Center Staff Surgeon and Surgical Intensivist Nashville VA Medical Center Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Patel: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur in patients after the traumatizing events of critical illness. Survivors of critical illness have reported PTSD symptoms months to even years after critical illness, possibly related to nightmare-like experiences, safety restraints creating communication barriers, and protective mechanical ventilation causing feelings of breathlessness and fear of imminent death. But, the epidemiology of PTSD after critical illness is unclear with wide ranging estimates (0-64%) and largely fails to distinguish past PTSD from new PTSD specifically resulting from the critical care experience. Our study provides estimates on new cases of PTSD stemming specifically from the ICU experience. Pre-existing PTSD has rarely been systematically assessed in prior cohorts, and our work took extra effort to distinguish pre-existing PTSD from new PTSD cases. Civilian populations have dominated the literature of PTSD after critical illness, and this research is the first to also include the expanding and aging Veteran population.  (more…)
Anesthesiology, Author Interviews, CHEST, Critical Care - Intensive Care - ICUs, PTSD, Pulmonary Disease / 24.10.2015 Interview with: Jad Kebbe, MD Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Department of Medicine University of Buffalo Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kebbe: This study proceeded after sensing that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a major contributor to ill outcomes in Veterans who are hospitalized in general, and mechanically ventilated in the intensive care unit (ICU) in particular. There is plenty of data depicting the comorbid roles PTSD plays in other medical conditions, leading to an increase in the use of medical services. Furthermore, PTSD affects a Veteran’s adherence to both medical and psychiatric therapies. Having said this, the ICU course could itself negatively affect a pre-existing PTSD, or even lead to the inception of such a condition de novo. However, to date, there has been no study looking at the effect a pre-existing PTSD diagnosis may have on the ICU hospitalization and thereafter. Our study confirmed that PTSD led to an increase in sedative requirements (opiates and benzodiazepines) for Veterans who were mechanically ventilated for more than 24h between 2003 and 2013, and revealed a trend towards an increase in mortality when compared to Veterans not suffering from PTSD. This is why many veterans are trying to claim disability benefits using va benefits and disability lawyer Tennessee to help them fight their case. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, PTSD / 08.10.2015

Kathryn Magruder, Ph.D., M.P.H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center Charleston, Interview with: Kathryn Magruder, Ph.D., M.P.H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center Charleston, S.C. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Magruder: There has been lots of attention and concern over PTSD in your younger veterans — both male and female -- and in male Vietnam veterans.  Too often the women who served during the Vietnam Era have been largely overlooked.  We felt like we owed it to them to understand better their responses to their wartime experiences — even if 40 years later.  It’s never too late to do the right thing! Our main finding is that the women who served in Vietnam had high prevalence of PTSD (20% lifetime, 16% current) and this was not attributable to cases that had developed prior to entering the military.  This was higher than the women who served near Vietnam or in the United States.  When we looked at their reported experiences during the Vietnam Era, the women who were in Vietnam reported higher levels of exposure to all of the items on our scale.  It was these experiences — especially sexual harassment, performance pressures, and experiences with triage and death — that explained their higher levels of PTSD. (more…)