Non-invasive nerve stimulation was found to improve electrophysiological measures in both the autonomic nervous system and in the emotionally-modulated startle response in combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to findings presented at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, November 12-16, 2016 in San Diego, California. This suggests that this method of treatment affects systems that underlie emotional dysregulation.

Damon G. Lamb, PhD, from the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center and the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida and colleagues evaluated the effect of non-invasive nerve stimulation on current active symptoms of PTSD and closed head mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in both veterans with PTSD and in combat veterans not diagnosed with PTSD or mTBI who served as controls.

The participants were randomized into either nerve stimulation or sham stimulation groups, and were assessed via the emotionally-modulated startle-blink paradigm. Postural modulated baroreceptor sensitivity and heart rate variability were also then assessed.

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Non-invasive electrical stimulation was found to be well-tolerated and improved electrophysiological measures of autonomic nervous system state and emotionally-modulated startle response.

“Current treatment approaches, including psychotherapy and psychiatric medication, only achieve full remission in less than half of treated individuals,” the authors wrote. “Thus, alternate approaches should be considered as primary treatment and rehabilitation approaches or as adjuvants to current best practices.”

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Lamb DG, Porges ESC, Williamson JB. Modulation of signs and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury by peripheral nerve stimulation. Presented at: 2016 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting. November 12-16, 2016; San Diego, California. Abstract 547.08 / JJJ37.