Technology & Innovation for the Prevention & Treatment of PTSD Conference

October 31, 2012 | USC ICT


War is perhaps one of the most challenging situations that a human being can experience. The physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological demands of a combat deployment place enormous stress on even the best-prepared military service members. Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq, approximately 2.5 million troops have been deployed. Between the unique nature of these conflicts, their duration and the common occurrence of multiple deployments, a significant number of returning service members have developed or are at risk for developing a range of behavioral health conditions. The urgency of this healthcare challenge, has driven the DoD and VA systems to accelerate research, development and application of novel and innovative approaches for clinical research and dissemination of care. This conference is meant to provide an overview of some exciting new directions being pursued to address the many unmet needs surrounding trauma-related disorders. The program will begin with an overview of the scope of the challenges that face veterans exposed to trauma. This will be followed by a number of speakers detailing the evolution and current use of prolonged exposure therapy. Innovations of this evidence based therapy including the use of virtual reality technology and cognitive enhancers to further improve outcomes will be discussed. This will be complemented by a basic science perspective on fear extinction learning, a process that underlies prolonged exposure, as well as a discussion of laboratory approaches to assessing this type of learning in humans. The remainder of the program will review some new pharmacological and psychotherapy approaches. The use of virtual environments, mobile apps and “virtual agents” that can all aid in promoting stress resilience, health coaching and treatment engagement will also be discussed. Participants will have the opportunity to experience demos of many of the technologies discussed at the conclusion of the program. One of the clinical “game changing” outcomes of the OIF/OEF conflicts could derive from the military’s support for new research and development in these areas that could potentially drive increased recognition and adoption within the civilian sector. As we have seen throughout history, innovations that emerge in military healthcare driven by the urgency of war, typically have a lasting influence on civilian healthcare long after the last shot is fired.

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