Experiments probe further into post-traumatic stress disorder
Four PTSD-related research experiments at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center:
Nasal spray: Scott Panter is developing a battlefield-ready nasal spray for troops who suffer brain trauma. After the trauma occurs, the brain swells, causing tissue damage. Panter's nasal spray, applied within 20 minutes of a trauma, would aim to stop the swelling process. Troops could carry the spray in their packs and self-apply or administer to others.
D-cycloserine: Dr. Charles Marmar is conducting trials on PTSD patients using D-cycloserine. The drug, which was originally used as an antibiotic for tuberculosis, has also proved to help lab animals "unlearn fear responses." Given in small doses 30 minutes before a therapy session, D-cyclo is meant to help PTSD patients open up about their traumatic experiences and become more willing to engage in therapy. The hypothesis is that the group taking D-cyclo will make more and faster progress in therapy.
Blood/gene test: Dr. Lynn Pulliam is trying to establish a blood profile to diagnose PTSD. Using gene array technology, researchers will be able to take an RNA test, much like a DNA test, to determine whether a patient "tests positive" for PTSD.
Sleep experiment: Dr. Thomas Neylan is conducting a study on improving veterans' sleep habits without drugs. Neylan said PTSD patients often feel anxious about sleeping, in part because they anticipate insomnia but also because they worry about nightmares. Subjects are coached to avoid substances that interfere with their sleep. "If we get them to sleep better at night," Neylan said, "they'll have fewer nightmares and feel better during the day."