Army funds and researchers Virtual Reality Exposure for combat-related PTSD

Tuesday February 15, 2011

What is it?

Virtual Reality Exposure for combat-related PTSD adds a multi-sensory experience to augment prolonged exposure therapy techniques. Traditional prolonged exposure therapy works by activating patient fear structures and facilitating emotional engagement through imagined recall. Virtual Reality augments this using a computer generated, visual, life-like simulated experience--a sophisticated cartoon.

What has the Army done?

The Military Operational Medicine Research Program, of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, is managing ongoing Defense Health Program funded research of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for treatment of combat-related PTSD. The Army has collaborated with the Geneva Foundation, and is working with universities including Weill Medical College, Cornell University, the University of Central Florida, and Emory University. Funding is ongoing for this effort (current/future investment at +$14 million) to examine the value added by multi-sensory input to traditional prolonged exposure therapy.

Why is this important to the Army?

VRET offers an additional modality of treatment that is complementary to those already in use. Because of its nature and similarity to video gaming technology, VRET may increase willingness to initially participate in treatment and it may enhance warfighters' interest in completing treatment protocols. Its use, in combination with other therapeutic approaches offers one more tool in a growing menu of provider treatment options. In addition, because it is technologically based, treatment time once measured in months may be reduced and customized to fit the schedule of the servicemember. Instead of being in a medically non-deployable status for months, the PTSD sufferer may complete a treatment cycle in a matter of weeks.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

Continued efforts are focused on evaluating the use of these technologies in comparison to traditional treatment. Additionally, ongoing and future research will aid in fine tuning knowledge and practice procedures to ensure the highest quality of care, and best delivery of treatment to the war-fighter.

Resources:

U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's website

Military Operational Medicine Research Program (MOMRP)

T2 Virtual PTSD Experience

STAND-TO! edition, July 13, 2010: Comprehensive Resilience Modules

Related articles: 'Virtual world' helps with post-traumatic stress

Army explores PTSD treatments

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