Wristwatch device gives therapists the opportunity to guide PTSD patients through treatment

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Newswise: The sights, smells, and sounds of everyday life can provide the triggers that bring someone with PTSD back to the scene of the scars they’re trying to forget.

With PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, a horn, a crowded cafeteria, or a strong smell can trigger traumatic memories that can increase your heart rate, increase muscle tension, and trigger anxiety and depression. These reactions occur even without the presence of danger, but they pose their own threat by stressing relationships at home and work, causing the need to avoid certain situations, and contributing to mood swings.

PTSD can happen to anyone at any age, according to the National Institutes of Health, and treatment options include medication and therapy. MUSC Health researchers recently published an article in the journal of psychiatric research where they worked with the medical device company Zeriscope to test a device called Bio Ware, which is designed to enhance the effects of prolonged exposure therapy, a common evidence-based therapy for patients with PTSD.

And since 11-30% of veterans experience PTSD symptoms, the research team looked at the use of Bio Ware specifically with service members at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.

With in vivo exposures, which are a key component of prolonged exposure therapy, patients are tasked with putting themselves in safe but uncomfortable or triggering situations outside of their therapy sessions, as a form of homework. If they are afraid of crowded spaces, for example, their therapist may ask them to go to the grocery store at a busy time, then share their reaction at the next therapy session. If the service member is stressed by noisy spaces and avoids them, their therapist may send them to a loud sporting event, for example, in an effort to help them learn to be more comfortable in those situations and not have to avoid them in the future. . .

When done correctly, in vivo exposures have been shown to be successful and useful for patients, but they depend on both the patient and their interpretation of their own stressors, Sudie Back, Ph.D., professor, department of psychiatry at MUSC Health and principal investigator of the NIMH-funded study, sees margin of error.

“What I find so exciting about this new device from Bio Ware,” he said. “It’s that when used in conjunction with evidence-based exposure treatment methods for PTSD, we’ve seen significantly better outcomes for our patients.” Back and her team saw significant decreases in both PTSD symptoms and depression symptoms in patients using the new technology.

As a wearable device, the Bio Ware system includes a discreet button-shaped camera attached to the patient’s clothing, a watch-sized tool around the wrist, and an in-ear Bluetooth headset so your therapists can be virtually with them. in the experience or situation. that causes them stress. The clinician can see immediate records of the patient’s heart rate, breathing, and emotional distress, and can guide them through the experience by pushing them to do more or removing them to do less, to optimize in vivo exposure.

According to Back, “This is the first time, to my knowledge, that we’ve been able to go virtually with patients during their in vivo exposures and have instant access to their physiological data in the moment to help them get the most out of those exercises, which I think it will translate into them seeing significant reductions in their PTSD symptoms.”

Bill Harley, co-founder and CEO of Zeriscope, compares it to working out on your own versus with a personal trainer.

“Communicating with patients and at the same time seeing their biophysics is incredibly helpful,” he said. “A lot of healing happens in vivo exposures, and Bio Ware enriches that experience.”

The “special sauce” created with Bio Ware is found in the autonomic nervous system according to Robert Adams, MD, president and co-founder of Zeriscope and professor of neurology at MUSC Health. Previously developed watches aimed for something similar, but only collected pulse information. This system goes one level deeper, he says, by directly interrogating the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system controls physiological reactions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. Using the same technology used in lie detector tests, clinicians can take this galvanic skin response, change the patient’s triggering experience accordingly, and see how the actions they tell the patient impact the nervous system. autonomous.

One of these days, they know they have to get going,

Out the door and down the street alone.

Adams believes the line from the Grateful Dead song “Truckin'” sums up the need for Bio Ware. “It’s an expression of what exposure therapy really is. You have to get back to the real world on your own, but we can help you.


About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system with the unique mission of preserving and optimizing human life in South Carolina through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates more than 3,000 students in six faculties (Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy) and trains more than 850 residents and fellows in its health system. MUSC contributed more than $327.6 million in research funding in fiscal year 2021, leading the state overall in research funding. MUSC also leads the state in federal and National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $220 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.

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