Brain stimulation & virtual reality for PTSD

In October 2018, I voluntarily participated in a research study at the Providence VA Medical Center (VAMC) that uses brain stimulation techniques in order to both evaluate and reduce the effects of PTSD on veterans.

Over 50 years I have experienced the effects of PTSD and I have been going to the Providence facility for treatment for over 24 years, so I am not a novice when it comes to knowing how this disorder can disrupt your life. It’s as if you are looking into a black hole and you cannot imagine anything in your life that would make living worthwhile. You can have all the comforts of life imaginable, but they mean nothing because all you feel is guilt and fear.

One of the main disorders I experienced was pushing people away, but this syndrome can also lead to being estranged from the ones you love, divorce and even suicide, so when I read the flyer that described this treatment, I called immediately and volunteered to be a test subject, believing that even if it did not help me, perhaps my participation might help my friends from the past.

The entire project consisted of nine outpatient sessions followed up with subsequent evaluations. The first session was an interview to determine compatibility, and the second was an MRI to ensure that there were no physical replacements that would interfere with the testing. Then, over the following two weeks, for three days each week I was placed in a 2-hour virtual reality situation. The scenario that I was placed in put me inside a Humvee in a convoy that was being attacked by small arms and rockets, the finale of which, the vehicle in front of me was destroyed.

The whole time my brain was being scanned for reactions to each event and at certain points, a very low current may have been applied. As I understood it, not everyone received the current, but I wasn’t told whether I was one of the subjects who did or didn’t.

After the last session, I was interviewed as to what I thought of the testing and then I returned twice over the next six weeks for evaluation checks.

I am not going to try and convince others of the effects of the research, but I will state, unequivocally, that I have been able to view the world in a much better way. My thoughts of the past became those of the happier times in my life and helped me to experience a more positive view of the world around me.

These are the results I have experienced and I can’t say that this is what everyone may expect; all I can do is relate my experience and thank the wonderful people at the Providence VAMC for being there when I needed them.