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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop after exposure to a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Anyone can develop PTSD at any age, including war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or other serious event. Some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences harm or dies unexpectedly. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger. Learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Featured Studies

Featured studies include only those currently recruiting participants. Studies with the most recent start date appear first.

Fear and Avoidance in PTSD Patients

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: July 1, 2021
Location: New York, New York
Eligibility: Ages 18–70, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

The purpose of this research study is to study how the brain learn to avoid certain stimuli or situations using an experimental paradigm. The big goal is to measure brain responses and subject's feelings and expectations when they are learning to actively avoid experimental stimuli, and how fear extinction learning and monetary cost can change how and when subjects are to avoid.

Implementing a Skills Training Evidence-Based Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Primary Care

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: June 29, 2021
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Eligibility: Ages 18 and Older, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

A majority of residents in low income communities have been exposed to a potentially traumatic event, and up to half (30-50%) of trauma-exposed residents in safety net clinical settings meet criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite this, only 13% receive treatment. Poor access to PTSD treatment is due to a shortage of mental health specialists.

This study aims to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of a brief, cognitive-behavioral intervention for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR)- that will be offered in Boston Medical Center (BMC)'s primary care clinics as the new standard of care following integrated behavioral healthcare (IBH) therapist training. In response to clinician capacity concerns and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering the intervention in both clinician-administered and self-paced, web-administered formats. The evidence base suggests that STAIR, delivered both synchronously (in-person/telehealth STAIR) and asynchronously (webSTAIR), is associated with significant improvements in PTSD and depression symptoms.

Increasing Treatment Efficacy Using SMART Methods for Personalizing Care

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: June 22, 2021
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Eligibility: Ages 18 and Older, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

The proposed study will determine the feasibility, tolerability, and acceptability of a study that tests: 1) personalized treatment delivery (i.e., module sequencing and treatment discontinuation timing) aimed at increasing the efficiency of care, and 2) the research protocol designed to evaluate the effects of this personalized care. A sample of 60 participants with heterogeneous anxiety disorders (and comorbid conditions, including depression) will be enrolled in a pilot sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART). Patients will be randomly assigned to one of three sequencing conditions: transdiagnostic treatment administered in its standard module order, module sequences that prioritize capitalizing on relative strengths, and module sequences that prioritize compensating for relative weaknesses. Next, after 6 sessions, participants will be randomly assigned to either continue or discontinue treatment to evaluate post-treatment change at varying levels of target engagement. This proposal will enable us to 1) test the feasibility, acceptability, and tolerability of the research protocol, treatment sequencing conditions, and early treatment discontinuation, 2) determine whether a preliminary signal that capitalization or compensation module sequencing improves treatment efficiency exists, and 3) explore preliminary associations between core process engagement at treatment discontinuation and later symptom improvement. The proposed study, and the subsequent research it will support, will inform evidence-based decision rules to make existing treatments more efficient, ultimately reducing patient costs and increasing the mental health service system's capacity to address the needs of more individuals.

A Mobile Health Solution for Homework During CBT

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: June 10, 2021
Location: Tampa, Florida
Eligibility: Ages 7–17, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

The purpose of this study is to preliminarily evaluate a web-based app to improve provider implementation and patient engagement in homework (i.e., between-session practice of skills learned during therapy) during child mental health treatment by conducting a small-scale feasibility trial in community practice settings comparing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to CBT enhanced with the app.

Effects of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on Retention of Memory for Fear Extinction Learning in PTSD: R33 Study

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: April 1, 2021
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Eligibility: Ages 18–60, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

The goal of this study is to look at how a type of drug called cannabinoids are related to the processing of fear signals, the experience of emotions and fear, and the pattern of activity in the brain that is involved in these processes and how this relates to the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs after experiencing a traumatic event(s) and is characterized by unwanted memories of the trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of situations that remind the person of the event, difficulty experiencing emotions, loss of interest in activities the person used to enjoy, and increased arousal, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, anger and hypervigilance. The information gained from this study could lead to the development of new treatments for persons who suffer from anxiety or fear-based disorders.

Improving Therapeutic Learning for PTSD

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: February 18, 2021
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Eligibility: Females, Ages 21–50, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

The proposed project seeks to demonstrate the engagement of post-exposure dopamine neurotransmission and downstream acute reorganization of dopaminergic resting-state neural networks as a means of increasing consolidation of extinction memories formed during analogue exposure therapy in adult women with PTSD. Participants will include 120 women aged 21-50 with a current diagnosis of PTSD related to physical or sexual assault, English speaking, and medically healthy. Participants will complete the stages of the study across 2-3 days, depending on participant need.

Effect of TMS on PTSD Biomarkers

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: February 15, 2021
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Eligibility: Ages 18–65, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

The study will (1) assess feasibility of a TMS treatment in an underserved population; (2) determine if this TMS treatment protocol improves PTSD symptoms and biological markers of PTSD such as brain functioning and startle responses; (3) define new brain targets for future TMS studies; (4) provide the first data for individual differences, which will help personalize treatment for PTSD patients; (5) improve knowledge of the neurobiology of PTSD and treatment response.

Collaboration Leading to Addiction Treatment and Recovery From Other Stresses

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: January 8, 2021
Locations: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Belen, New Mexico; Edgewood, New Mexico; Lordsburg, New Mexico; Los Lunas, New Mexico; Silver City, New Mexico
Eligibility: Ages 18 and Older, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

Collaboration Leading to Addiction Treatment and Recovery from Other Stresses (CLARO) is a five-year project that tests whether delivering care using a collaborative model helps patients with both opioid use disorders and mental health disorders.

PTSD, AUD, and Interpersonal Conflict: Within-person Associations

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: December 4, 2020
Location: Vermillion, South Dakota
Eligibility: Ages 18–60, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

The present study seeks to increase understanding of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans, an important public health concern. We will study the effects of regulatory deficits and sleep disturbance on the dynamic course of PTSD and AUD. The study will investigate whether a short, computerized training in the laboratory will alter maladaptive response biases and reduce associations between sleep disturbance, affect and behavioral dysregulation, AUD symptoms, and PTSD symptoms in the real world.

Trauma Informed Treatment Algorithms for Novel Outcomes

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: October 5, 2020
Location: Phnom Penh, Khan Chamkarmon, Cambodia
Eligibility: Ages 18 and Older, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

This randomized controlled trial (RCT) will examine the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a beginning treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Behavioral Activation (BA). Cambodian men and women who screen positive for PTSD will be randomized to receive six individually delivered sessions of either: 1) Stabilization Techniques alone (ST); or 2) ST+BA. After two months, all participants who continue to report clinically meaningful elevations in PTSD will receive Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). All participants will complete a follow-up assessment at four months post-randomization.

Neuroendocrine Risk for PTSD in Women

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: November 11, 2019
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Eligibility: Females, Ages 18–35, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers

This study will test for effects of estradiol (E2) on PTSD symptoms and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) indicators of stress vulnerability, in naturally-cycling women who are not using hormonal birth control. Enrollment will be targeted to create three groups within two cohorts (early follicular phase and luteal phase):

PTSD: Women who meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for PTSD Trauma-Exposed (TC): Women matched for age and trauma exposure severity but without PTSD Healthy Control (HC): Women matched for age, but without trauma history or psychiatric disorder (self-reported)

Women will be recruited through Grady Trauma Project (GTP), a large longstanding study of civilian trauma and PTSD conducted at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

A Lay-Led Intervention for War and Refugee Related Trauma

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: July 14, 2018
Locations: Cleveland, Ohio; Seattle, Washington
Eligibility: Ages 18–65, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

This study will examine the initial efficacy and feasibility of a program called Islamic Trauma Healing by conducting a small RCT (N = 60) comparing Islamic Trauma Healing in an U.S. Somali refugee sample to a waitlist control on key targets of PTSD, depression, somatic symptoms, and quality of life. The hypothesis is that those in Islamic Trauma Healing will show a greater reduction of PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, and somatic symptoms and show a greater improvement in quality of well-being than those in the waitlist condition (WL).

Neuroeconomics of Social Behavior Following Trauma Exposure

Study Type: Observational
Start Date: November 14, 2017
Location: Belmont, Massachusetts
Eligibility: Females, Ages 18–45, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

This study will use a neuroeconomic paradigm with state-of-the-art imaging protocols to probe abnormal social reward processing underlying social withdrawal in symptomatic trauma-exposed women. By also gathering self-report measures of social anhedonia, performance on non-social and social reward valuation tasks, and measures of real-world social functioning including social network size, we aim to specify how alterations in social reward processing result in social withdrawal and functional impairment.

Sustaining and Improving Clinicians' Use of Evidence-Based Psychotherapy (EBP) for PTSD

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: May 6, 2015
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Eligibility: Ages 18 and Older, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

The purpose of the study is to compare the impact of two strategies to sustain and improve the delivery of an evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) in three different mental health systems. These approaches are based on two different theories of what is necessary to promote successful implementation. We will examine whether these strategies lead to improved patient outcomes, clinician skill, proportion of clients who receive CPT, and other outcomes that are relevant to the implementation of evidence-based psychosocial treatments. By examining these questions in 3 different mental health systems, we will also examine whether the implementation strategies yield different results in different systems.

Imaging Cannabinoid Receptors Using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scanning

Study Type: Observational
Start Date: July 31, 2010
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Eligibility: Males, Ages 18–55, Accepts Healthy Volunteers

The aim of the present study is to assess the availability of cannabinoid receptors (CB1R) in the human brain. CB1R are present in everyone's brain, regardless of whether or not someone has used cannabis. The investigators will image brain cannabinoid receptors using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging and the radioligand OMAR, in healthy individuals and several conditions including 1) cannabis use disorders, 2) psychotic disorders, 3) prodrome of psychotic illness and 4) individuals with a family history of alcoholism, 5) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 6) Opioid Use Disorder using the PET imaging agent or radiotracer, [11C]OMAR. This will allow us to characterize the number and distribution of CB1R in these conditions. It is likely that the list of conditions will be expanded after the collection of pilot data and as new data on cannabinoids receptor function and psychiatric disorders becomes available.

Those in the cannabis us disorder arm of the study will have a PET scan on at least three occasions: once while smoking as usual, once after 48-hours of abstinence from cannabis, and a final time after 4 weeks of abstinence. Additional scans may be conducted within the 4 weeks and the last scan may be conducted well beyond 4 weeks. Similarly, while most schizophrenia patients may get scanned just once, a subgroup of patients may get scanned more than once. For example to tease out the effects of medications, unmedicated patients may get scanned while unmedicated and again after treatment with antipsychotic medications. Similarly prodromes may get scanned while in the prodromal stage off medications, on medications and after conversion to schizophrenia.