Western and McMaster team up for study on new ways to treat first responders with PTSD
The joint project will receive nearly $1 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
A joint study by researchers at Western and McMaster universities on a new approach to treating first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will receive nearly $1 million in funding.
Western's Ruth Lanius and McMaster's Margaret McKinnon will co-lead a project that will receive $990,000 over three years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
The study will focus on the effectiveness of a cognitive remediation strategy called Goal Management Training. It's aim is to improve cognitive functioning among first responders such as nurses, firefighters, police, paramedics, correctional services officers and others, including those currently responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers will focus on areas that many patients have struggled with, including memory, attention and focus.
"This is an area where treatment hasn't previously been available and these cognitive difficulties relate to the emotional difficulties that people suffer with PTSD," said McKinnon, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of research of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University.
"So, for example, if something comes to mind very quickly and it may be a really inappropriate response, being able to hold that response back when you're talking to your partner or talking to your children. So emotion and cognition really interact in PTSD and we need to find a way to treat that."
The research will also look at physical changes in brain structure and brain function before and after treatment, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the Robarts Research Institute in London.
"This has been incredibly validating for people to find that their mental health difficulties, which is often an invisible injury, can actually be made visible through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging," said Lanius, a scientist at the Lawson Research Institute and a a psychiatrist at the London Health Sciences Centre.
She said participants will see how their brains will heal, how major brain networks can be reconnected and how the structure of the brain can change with good treatment.
Participants for the study will be recruited from the London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Homewood Health Care in Guelph and other locations in Ontario.