May 24, 2017 0603 GMT
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can develop as a reaction to a terrifying event, such as war, natural disasters and other physical violence or trauma, UPI reported.
People with the condition may have prolonged anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares and other life-altering symptoms.
Mayer Bellehsen, the director of the Feinberg Division of the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families, in Bay Shore, NY, said, "Conventional treatments for PTSD are often not sufficient for addressing this difficult condition.
"While traditional behavioral treatments offer significant relief, many people cannot tolerate the treatment and discontinue prior to experiencing the full benefits.”
The new study was led by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The investigators sought to tackle PTSD from another angle, through the patients' own brainwaves.
The study involved 18 patients who completed an average of 16 successive, daily sessions of what the researchers called ‘noninvasive closed-loop acoustic stimulation brainwave technology’.
During the sessions, the patients' brain activity was monitored and certain brain frequencies were translated into acoustic tones that were then relayed back to the patients via earbuds.
Lead author Dr. Charles Tegeler, professor of neurology, said, "It's as if the brain can look at itself in an acoustic mirror, recalibrate its patterns towards improved balance and reduced hyperarousal, and can relax.
“After the sessions, nearly 90 percent of the patients reported clinically meaningful decreases in PTSD symptoms.
"The effects of chronic stress are killing people and the medical profession has not yet found an answer for how best to treat them.
"We believe there is a need for effective, noninvasive, nondrug therapies for symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which is why we conducted this trial."
Bellehsen reviewed the findings and was cautiously optimistic.
He said, “The research is a novel approach to thinking about and devising treatments for PTSD.
“The brainwave approach seemed to help many participants. It is notable that most [patients] seemed to tolerate the intervention and did not experience negative events in the course of the treatment.
“However, this remains a small pilot study and these findings need to be viewed with caution as there is much more work to be done before these efforts can lead to a clinically meaningful intervention.
“That work should include a larger study group, plus clinician-rated measurements of PTSD symptoms, not the patient self-reports the current study relied on.”
Dr. Aaron Pinkhasov directed behavioral health at New York University Winthrop Hospital in Mineola.
Reviewing the new findings, he agreed that any progress in the management of PTSD is very welcome.
But he also agreed with Bellehsen that a larger, better-controlled and better-evaluated study is needed.
Pinkhasov said, "It would be great to see a larger study demonstrating good results.”