- Researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have been studying why some people can be overwhelmed by stress and others are less affected by it. Initial findings show that the ability to adapt to stress is affected by environmental and individual factors, which may be a key to a better understanding of PTSD and early identification of those at risk.
- Early results from an NIMH-sponsored study of 24 Iraq war veterans with PTSD show a marked reduction in what's called "acoustic startle"—the reflex response to sudden loud sounds—in those treated with "virtual reality" (VR) exposure therapy. The VR therapy combines traditional therapy and exposure via VR technology that depicts scenes such as a Humvee on a desert highway and a soldier on foot patrol in an Iraqi city.
- The emotional shocks of disasters can have long-term mental health consequences. NIMH-funded researchers have found that mental disorders, including PTSD, persist for those affected by 2005's Hurricane Katrina. This is important because previously researchers found that mental disorders usually decrease and fade after about two years. Ongoing research is studying what causes this extended distress. Other researchers are also studying stress disorders and resilience among survivors in Texas of 2008's Hurricane Ike.
- Other research is exploring whether certain drugs and brief talk therapies can be used immediately after a trauma to decrease the risk of developing PTSD.
- The NIMH Team on Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Returning Combat Veterans in the Community received the 2008 Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Service to America. The team was recognized for focusing attention on the mental health needs of military, veterans, and their families.
NIH Research to Results
Winter 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 1 Page 15