Government and Regulations

Banking on Vets for Better PTSD Research

This new program is enlisting the help of veterans in ongoing PTSD research that will create a bank of information for treatment innovations.


 

Veterans can now help advance PTSD research by enrolling in a “brain bank.” A consortium led by the VA National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder has launched the first brain tissue repository to support research into causes, progression, and treatment of PTSD.

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The Leahy-Friedman National PTSD Brain Bank is the fruit of 12 years of labor by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dr. Matthew Friedman, senior advisor to the VA PTSD Center and its former executive director. Dr. Friedman is directing the consortium, which will have sites across the U.S.

Brain bank researchers will follow the health of enrolled participants during their lifetime; participants will donate brain and body tissue after death. Any veteran with PTSD living in the U.S. is eligible to enroll—as are veterans without PTSD, who are needed for purposes of comparison.

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Participation involves filling out surveys by telephone, mail, or a secure Internet website. Surveys ask about exposure to chemicals at home, work, or during military service. Participants are also asked about mental health and given brief tests of memory and concentration. Information collected is labeled with a code that does not identify the veteran directly; all information is kept confidential. The veteran has the right to withdraw at any time, even after signing consent forms. VA benefits and VA health care will not be influenced in any way by agreeing or refusing to participate. Next of kin can give consent immediately following a veteran’s death.

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The data will expand knowledge about a significant health concern for veterans: In 2013, 533,720 veterans with a primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD were treated at VAMCs and clinics. “Although we have learned a great deal about abnormalities in brain structure and function from brain imaging research, there is no substitute for looking at the neurons themselves,” said Dr. Friedman. “Understanding the cellular and circuit contributions to abnormal brain activity in PTSD is critical in the search for potential biomarkers of susceptibility, illness, and treatment response and for developing new treatments targeting the conditions at the cellular level.”

Veterans interested in learning more about the brain bank and enrollment can call (800) 762-6609 or visit www.research.va.gov/programs/tissue_banking/PTSD/default.cfm.

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