October 2015—The study of PTSD is nuanced.
The disorder manifests differently in different individuals, and a host of secondary illnesses and invasive symptoms can be associated with it. It is impossible, therefore, to treat PTSD in the same way for every sufferer or predict with complete accuracy who will be most affected.
Because of this, researchers and physicians need clearer criteria to help identify and treat PTSD.
Now, a five-year $21 million study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health called the Aurora study is aiming to provide just that. One of the largest and most holistic studies to assess and treat PTSD, it will evaluate and track 5,000 patients who have suffered a traumatic event over the course of a year, testing a variety of neurological, psychological, and genetic specifiers.
Ron Kessler, who will study the social epidemiological aspects of the study, has previously done significant work on PTSD affecting servicemembers via Army STARRS. Two of the other principal investigators, Karestan Koenan and Kerry Ressler, are also Harvard faculty.
The Aurora study will collect substantial data on patients to study the various factors that play a part in the onset and development of PTSD and related symptoms. In addition to brain imaging, blood tests, and other medical tests, data will also be used from technological devices like smart phones and fitness wristbands.
Additionally, a patient’s medical history will feature in the data collected to study the originating factors that cause specific manifestations of the disorder. The study aims to find patterns in the causes of PTSD, identify which treatments work, and scale up this knowledge so that physicians and other professionals working with trauma survivors can use to treat sufferers more effectively.
In the HMS press release, Kessler said,
“We need these tools urgently so that trauma survivors at high risk can be identified for early preventive treatments.”
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