Many military personnel returning from the Middle East are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and some believe that a therapeutic technique called magnetic resonance therapy, or MRT, can help them heal. Although research on the effectiveness of this type of treatment is scarce and inconclusive, many veterans are coming forward to tell their stories about success with MRT. The limited evidence is enough for the government to begin clinical trials.
Soldiers and PTSD
PTSD occurs in some people after experiencing a traumatic event. The trauma can come in many forms, but because of the violence of war in the Middle East, military members returning from active duty have some of the highest rates of the disorder. It is thought that as many as 8 percent of the general population will suffer from PTSD at some point during their lives. Among veterans, the rate is much higher. Between 11 percent and 20 percent of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Characteristics of having PTSD include reliving the traumatic experience, having nightmares and flashbacks triggered by something innocuous, avoiding uncomfortable situations, becoming isolated, feeling under threat in normal situations and being easily startled. The symptoms of PTSD can be extremely disruptive and prevent vets struggling with them from living normal lives.
The Healing Power of MRT?
MRT is a procedure used to treat PTSD, but the effectiveness of it remains unproven by researchers. A private clinic called the Brain Treatment Center has been offering the treatment to veterans at no cost, and many come out claiming to be cured. MRT involves using energy pulses from magnetic coils to target the brain’s cortex. Those receiving the treatment often call it “brain zapping.” Veterans are not the only ones using MRT and singing its praises. Parents of autistic children say that the treatment has given them a breakthrough. The procedure has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of depression. Under FDA guidelines, the treatment is called transcranial magnetic stimulation and has been shown to be safe, if not necessarily effective. Some small studies, including 20 to 30 veterans with PTSD, demonstrate that it can reduce symptoms. While research is still limited, those who have undergone MRT and experienced life-changing reversals in PTSD symptoms support the treatment fully. Doctors using MRT believe that it has great potential, not only for PTSD and depression, but also for other neurological and mental health conditions with no known cures. These could include Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, sleep disorders and anxiety disorders. More than 100 vets have undergone MRT at the Brain Treatment Center. Most of them had given up on more traditional treatments supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Behavioral therapies, medications and other techniques had not worked for these vets, and their frustrations led them to try MRT, a treatment on the fringes of medicine. The Brain Treatment Center claims that 100 percent of those vets who came to them for MRT showed significant improvement. The idea of a non-invasive, safe treatment that could help vets with PTSD, not to mention thousands of other people suffering with a range of neurological and mental health disorders, is exciting. More research is needed, and the National Institutes of Health is responding to that need. The organization is now recruiting participants for a double-blind study of MRT for treating PTSD. If successful, this study could be a part of revolutionizing treatment for PTSD and other disorders.