Last January, over 100 medical schools, including Stanford, partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama's Joining Forces initiative and pledged to boost training and research for the treatment of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment of the mental health condition are getting another boost.
A consortium of U.S. researchers is launching an initiative that will draw on genetic testing, brain imaging, physiological measurements and other data to pinpoint patterns that may prove useful in diagnosing PTDS and advancing treatments. The project is being led by Draper Laboratories, a research and development nonprofit in Cambridge, Mass. Susan Young, a former science-writing intern for the School of Medicine's communication office writes in Technology Review:
The consortium plans to study both civilians and military personnel who have recently been in automobile accidents (some 9 percent of American accident survivors develop PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD).
"The goal is to develop quantitative biomarkers, such as from a blood test, urine analysis, or fMRI, that can be used to determine objectively if someone has PTSD," says Len Polizzotto, Draper's vice president in charge of the program. The markers could also help reveal whether treatment is working, he says.
Consortium member Jennifer Vasterling, a clinical investigator and chief of psychology at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, says that long-term study could one day guide doctors in preventing symptoms from developing. "If you can look at biological features, psychological features, social features, and see what differentiates those who become symptomatic from those who don't, it gives you some idea where to go with preventative interventions," she says.
Previously: Is there a genetic link between memory and PTSD risk?, As soldiers return home, demand for psychologists with military experience grows and Searching for better PTSD treatments
Photo by Andrew Spratley