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Virtual reality can help to treat ex-Service personnel with treatment-resistant PTSD, according to new study

Results of a study into the effectiveness of a new treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) show that it can be effective for ex-Service personnel with treatment-resistant PTSD.

Modular Motion-assisted Memory Desensitisation and Reconsolidation (3MDR) is a new treatment, based on virtual reality exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, used in a novel context. The patient walks on a treadmill while interacting with a series of self-selected images that are displayed on a large screen and relate to the patient’s past traumas.

The study by Cardiff University was funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT). It found that PTSD symptom severity was statistically and clinically reduced by 37% in an immediate treatment group who undertook 3MDR. A delayed treatment group experienced an average reduction of 14% in PTSD symptoms while waiting for 3MDR, and a further 28% reduction following the treatment.

Developed by Professor Eric Vermetten of Leiden University in The Netherlands, 3MDR is based on the therapeutic principles of traditional trauma focused techniques, virtual reality exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), the important distinction being that these traditional techniques are sedentary.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive at Forces in Mind Trust, says:

“While the majority of ex-Service personnel successfully transition into the civilian world, a number suffer from mental health conditions as a result of their experiences. Approximately seven per cent are thought to suffer from PTSD, which has significant ramifications on their quality of life. The success of 3MDR in treating this debilitating condition offers hope for those affected by it, and FiMT is pleased to have supported the research which has demonstrated this.”

Professor Jonathan Bisson, Professor in Psychiatry at the Cardiff University School of Medicine, says:

“The results of our study are very encouraging and should pave the way for further research into a new treatment that has the potential to make a real difference to a significant number of ex-Service personnel with PTSD that has not responded to standard treatments.”

The full report can be found here.

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