A new study at UCLA has found that a brain stimulation patch, worn on the forehead while the patient sleeps, can significantly reduce symptoms in people with PTSD. Nathan Frandino reports.
Although combat is over in Afghanistan and Iraq, some of those soldiers who've returned home are still fighting. But they're not fighting al Qaeda or the Taliban... they're fighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. With the rise in PTSD, doctors are looking for new ways to fight the public health problem. At UCLA doctors behind a new study believe they've done just that. Dr. Andrew Leuchter was the study's senior author. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. ANDREW LEUCHTER, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY AT UCLA'S SEMEL INSTITUTE FOR NEUROSCIENCE AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR, SAYING: "What we decided to do was look at a novel kind of treatment for PTSD, a kind of brain stimulation or neuromodulation treatment called trigeminal nerve stimulation or TNS." Using electrodes and an adhesive patch similar to a band-aid, a patient receives an electric current that sends signals to parts of the brain that help regulate mood, behavior and cognition. The patient then applies the patch before sleeping. Dr. Leuchter says the results were promising. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. ANDREW LEUCHTER, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY AT UCLA'S SEMEL INSTITUTE FOR NEUROSCIENCE AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR, SAYING: "What we found was that if we use this treatment in patients who already are getting the best treatments available, that we can help them get even more gains. They have, on average a 30 percent reduction in their symptoms and, for the first time in years, sometimes in decades, these patients were getting substantial relief from their symptoms." Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Ron Ramirez suffered from a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. He said he and his family have noticed a difference since taking part in the trial. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RON RAMIREZ, RETIRED U.S. ARMY SERGEANT AND TRIAL SUBJECT, SAYING: "They actually started coming around. That was the biggest clue that something positive was working because they always told me that they could tell to stay away from me by looking at my face. But when they started to come talk to me, that was great." Doctors hope the technology can be used to treat other brain disorders, including epilepsy, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and even post-concussion syndrome.