Doctors experimenting with technology to curb PTSD

Published: May. 23, 2012 at 6:35 PM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2012 at 10:56 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Doctors at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center are experimenting with new approaches to help soldiers who are battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"We want something that's quicker and more effective," says Dr. Christopher Pelic of the VA Medical Center. "Sort of in combining treatments with the short burst of therapy."

This new form of PTSD therapy, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, uses electrical pulses. A veteran sits in a chair and they think about the event that made them feel so out of control while in the war zone. While that is happening, electrical pulses trigger feelings of control inside the veteran's brain.

This type of therapy is in its early stages, but doctors at the VA Medical Center say the results are encouraging.

"We've seen some folks have a nice turn around early on," says Dr. Pelic. "We haven't had a large number of subjects, but we've seen some nice results."

Veterans with PTSD are also re-living whatever trauma they experienced through a custom designed video game that puts them back in war zone.

"You wear a set of goggles and you're back in that situation, and we think that helps people who can't really keep those memories and imagination for whatever reason," says Dr. Ron Acierno.

And the theme of using technology to assist in PTSD therapy continues outside of the research facility.

"Another intervention we're doing is handing out iPads so that veterans who would rather get treatment at home, or if for example they have child care responsibilities or work or if they live far away from the VA centers, they can still  get the same treatment," explains Dr. Acierno.

All this new technology may one day replace the way veterans have been coping with PTSD for decades, which is the use of a counselor and exposure therapy.

Dr. Acierno says that in exposure therapy, "we have people engage in those traumatic memories, things that bother the most, over and over again until they're no longer overwhelming."

And while this type of therapy has been helpful for many, doctors are hoping their new high tech forms of therapy will mean quicker relief for veterans who are still battling with stress-inducing memories.

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