PTSD Treatment: Fear Drug, Virtual Reality

Could some time in a computer-generated world while on a fear-fighting drug help troops deal with post-traumatic stress disorder? Emory's Dr. Barbara Rothbaum University of California's Dr. Charles Marmar think so.matrix_treatment.jpgA tuberculosis drug called D-cycloserine, or DCS, could be the key, notes Army Times.

DCS affects what are called NMDA receptors, key parts of the brain mechanism that controls memory and learning...The intention is to allow DCS to inhibit fear receptors in the brain so patients can deal with painful memories in a constructive way and essentially "unlearn the fear response" when it comes to their war memories...Veterans participating in both experimental treatments will be given 50-milligram doses of DCS about half an hour before therapy, as well as exposure therapy...At Emory, patients will undergo virtual-reality exposure therapy, in which a helmet display with sound effects will put them back in Iraq in one of three scenarios: a solo Humvee ride, a convoy or urban warfare...Each Emory patient will go through five total sessions four with the DCS and virtual reality and one preliminary therapy session, she said. The study is expected to take five years and include about 150 patients, although the number could expand, she said...Rothbaum has already used the combination of DCS and virtual-reality therapy on patients who have a fear of heights. She said patients in that study were "significantly better" even three months later, when they were exposed to heights without DCS."That gave us a lot of hope," she said. "So now were trying something more complicated."
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