When a person suffers a traumatic experience, whether it’s in a war or as a victim of a crime or accident, it can leave them with crippling anxiety and stress. A recent study conducted at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior may have found something that could help the thousands of people who struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In the US
, an average of 7.8% of the population can be expected to experience PTSD. In women, the rate is twice that of men. And in any given year 5.2 million people are dealing with some form of PTSD.
The study, done at UCLA, used a small patch worn on the forehead. Powered by a 9-volt battery, the patch was wired to provide a low level electric current across specific nerves. Called TNS, for Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation, the therapy is part of a larger form of treatment called “neuromodulation” where electric current is passed through or near certain nerves to treat various conditions. The goal of neuromodulation is to alter what might be faulty wiring in the brain and provide relief.
In a press release
from UCLA Dr. Andrew Leuchter, the study’s senior author and a UCLA professor of psychiatry said, “We’re talking about patients for whom illness had almost become a way of life,” said and director of the neuromodulation division at. “Yet they were coming in and saying, ‘For the first time in years I slept through the night,’ or ‘My nightmares are gone.’ The effect was extraordinarily powerful.” ()
The study is the first to show success in treating PTSD with TNS. TNS has been used for other mental illnesses that don’t respond well to drug treatment, but using it for a chronic condition like PTSD is a first in the field TNS research.
The study only included 12 volunteers and they were civiians, but the team hopes to continue more research with veterans and military service members. The patch works while the wearer sleeps and passes the current through areas of the brain that are responsible for mood and behavior. Scientists know that in people who suffer from PTSD, the amygdala and medial pre-frontal cortex show abnormal activity in the synapses.
Dr. Ian Cook, the study’s lead author, co-invented the technology while at UCLA. He is now on leave from the university and is working at Neurosigma Inc., which licenses the patches and funded the study.
He told the Daily Bruin
, “The chance to have an impact on debilitating diseases with this elegant and simple technology is very satisfying. “We realized the trigeminal nerve connects to parts of the brain that are very important to functions like paying attention, regulating sleep, regulating mood. By sending these gentle electric signals, the nerve then fires and sends its own signals into the brain.” ()
Check out the video below to learn more about this ground-breaking study and how it could help those who suffer from the invisible wounds of PTSD.