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Innovative Research

Military service membersHome Base Program clinicians and researchers are engaged in exciting national research to develop better understanding and treatment of post traumatic stress (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). This research may lead to new breakthroughs in treatment for these “invisible wounds of war" and help to improve the lives of service members,  veterans, and their families.

Research Underway at Home Base

Home Base Program clinicians are researching new therapies to better diagnose and treat Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Your Home Base clinician can discuss possible research studies with you. If you are interested, they will work with you to see which study would be the best fit for you.*

Home Base affiliated research studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital include:

  • Medication and evidence-based psychotherapy to reduce symptoms of PTSD
  • Evaluating telemedicine couples therapy to treat PTSD symptoms and improve relationships
  • Using certain medications to influence and weaken traumatic memories
  • Using sophisticated brain imaging to monitor blood flow in the brains of individuals with TBI or combat stress

For general questions about research at Home Base, contact Rebecca Zakarian at rzakarian@partners.org,  (617) 643-8973

*Compensation for time and travel may be available.

Did You Serve in Iraq or Afghanistan?

  Do you:

  • have trouble sleeping or have nightmares?
  • feel anxious, jumpy or on alert?
  • feel irritable -- or feel numb?

If you answered "yes" to ANY of these questions, you may be eligible for a Home Base research study of Post Traumatic Stress. Participants receive therapy or study medication at no cost.

To learn more about the study, listen to this WBUR radio story, entitled: New PTSD Study Offering Hope To Veterans. For information call 1-617-726-1579 or email mghvets@mgh.harvard.edu.

All inquiries are kept confidential. Compensation up to $375 provided for study participants.

Studies Seeking Participants

Randomized controlled trial of sertraline, PE and their combination in OEF/OIF/OND with PTSD (PROGrESS)

What: This study is comparing 3 treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder, each shown to be effective for PTSD. The treatments are a talk therapy (Prolonged Exposure; PE), a medication (sertraline), and the combination of the two.
When: 12 weeks of treatment, followed by 12 weeks of less frequent visits and a 1-year follow-up visit
Who: OEF/OIF/OND veterans or active duty service members who have had combat-related posttraumatic stress symptoms for at least three months
Compensation: Individuals receive $50 for each assessment, for up to $300. Individuals receive an additional $800 if they choose to do the optional fMRI scan that occurs in Ann Arbor, MI.
Where: Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)
Contact: Benjamin Kovachy, bkovachy@partners.org, 617-726-0666; Andrew Rogers, arogers@partners.org, 617-726-1579


A Brain Activity Study in People with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What: This study uses fMRI and PET scans to examine brain activity in individuals who have PTSD and to predict their response to cognitive behavioral therapy
When: One fMRI scan before therapy and two optional PET scans before and after therapy
Who: Participants must be ready to receive cognitive behavioral therapy through Dr. Naomi Simon’s clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Compensation: $50 for the fMRI scan and $75 for each optional PET scan
Where: The Massachusetts General Hospital (Charlestown, MA)
Contact: Lisa M. Shin, PhD: lshin@partners.org or (617) 726-8120


Optimizing the Treatment of Complicated Grief

What: This study is comparing four treatments for complicated grief. The treatments are a talk therapy for complicated grief (CGT) and a medication (citalopram), CGT and a pill placebo, citalopram alone, or pill placebo alone.
When: 16 to 20 weeks of treatment with 3 months of follow-up treatment and a 6-month follow up visit
Who: Individuals who lost a loved one over 6 months ago and are feeling stuck in their grief
Compensation: $110-200
Where: Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)
Contact: Arielle Horenstein, ahorenstein@partners.org, 617-726-4585


Impact of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Memory: A Pilot Research Study

What: The research study examines the benefits of transcranial direct current stimulation on memory
When: 3 visits that last approximately 2 hours each, that are scheduled at least 48 hours apart, at times that are convenient for the participant
Who: 2 groups: one group of individuals who are 19 years or older and had a traumatic brain injury at least 1 year ago; and one group of individuals who are 19 years or older who have not had a traumatic brain injury
Compensation: $25 grocery card at the end of each of the 3 study visits
Where: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (Charlestown, MA)
Contact: Therese O’Neil-Pirozzi, 617-373-5750, t.oneil-pirozzi@neu.edu


Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD with Co-morbid Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

What: This research will examine potential differences between individuals diagnosed with PTSD plus mild traumatic brain injury compared to individuals diagnosed with PTSD only in their response to a type of talk therapy called cognitive processing therapy (CPT).
When: 12 weeks of treatment at the Home Base Program, a 6-month follow-up, and completing a MRI, clinical symptom scales, and neurocognitive assessments
Who: OEF/OIF/OND veterans 50 years or younger who have been diagnosed with PTD and who do or do not have mild traumatic brain injury
Compensation: up to $300
Where: Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)
Contact: Karen Chen, kchen15@partners.org, 617-724-2767


Neural Mechanisms of Fear Extinction Across Anxiety Disorders

What: Study Description: The purpose of this research study is to find out more about how the human brain forms and stores emotional memory. In particular, we would like to understand how human beings learn not to fear. We hope this study will help us understand why people with anxiety disorders cannot control unwanted fear. If eligible for this study, you will have two fMRI scans, during which you will perform some small tasks, such as finger tapping, while the MRI makes detailed pictures (images) of your brain.
When: 3 separate visits for a total of 7 hours
Who: You may be eligible if:
o You are currently suffering from generalized social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or a specific phobia.
o You are between 18 and 65 years of age.
o You are right-handed.
o You have normal (or corrected) vision.
o You have been on stable psychotropic medications for at least 8 weeks and are not currently taking benzodiazepines.
o You do not have any metal in your body.
Compensation: Up to $230
Where: Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown Navy Yard
Contact: Allie Campbell, (617) 726-3508, acampbell7@partners.org

Jerry Rosenbaum

Scientific Council for Research

Dr. Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanley Cobb Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is the head of the Home Base Program’s scientific council for research.

Dr. Rosenbaum is recognized as one of the world’s authorities on mood and anxiety disorders. His research contributions include extensive leadership in the development of new therapies, the design and implementation of trials to develop innovative treatments for major depression, treatment resistant depression, and panic disorder, studies of psychopathology including comorbidity and subtypes, and studies of longitudinal course and outcomes of those disorders.

At Mass General, Dr. Rosenbaum directs a department of more than 600 clinicians, researchers, and trainees, named by U.S. News and World Report as the #1 Department of Psychiatry in the United States for 16 of the last 18 years.  Also at Mass General – the largest hospital based research institution in the world, with over 700 million dollars per year of research funding –  he served as Chair of the hospital’s Executive Committee on Research.  His clinical and consulting practice specializes in treatment resistant mood and anxiety disorders, and he consults extensively to colleagues on management of these conditions.

Dr. Rosenbaum was the 2007 recipient of the C. Charles Burlingame Award given annually for lifetime achievement in psychiatric research and education by the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT, and the 2011 Massachusetts Association of Mental Health Friend and Leader Award.  He served as President and the Chairman of the Board of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and is Chair of the Scientific Council and on the Board of Directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He also serves on the MGH Board of Trustees. He and colleagues have recently founded a venture, PsyBrain, for the discovery and development of novel therapeutics for psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Rosenbaum received his undergraduate degree from Yale College and his medical degree from Yale School of Medicine.  He completed his residency and fellowship in Psychiatry at Mass General, Harvard Medical School.

Spotlight on Research

Harnessing New Brain Cells to Treat Overgeneralization of Fear

Amar ResearchAmar Sahay, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Center for Regenerative Medicine, and Principal faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. His primary research interests include how plasticity mechanisms in the adult brain affect cognition and mood and how perturbations in neural circuits may contribute to psychiatric disorders. Among other honors, Dr. Sahay has been the recipient of the Society for Neuroscience Career Development Award, the NIMH Pathway to Independence Award, and the Ellison New Scholar Award. StemBook Editor, Lisa Girard, was able to talk with Dr. Sahay recently about the exciting advances in understanding how changes in neural circuitry, specifically adult hippocampal neurogenesis, affects cognition and mood.

The Sahay lab is interested in understanding how new brain cells can be harnessed to regulate fear. Recent studies have overturned the century old dogma that the adult brain cannot generate new brain cells. Remarkably, stem cells in a part of the brain called the “hippocampus” that is essential for formation of new memories of places and events generates new brain cells everyday. We recently proposed that the overgeneralization of fear seen in patients with PTSD may arise from an inability of the hippocampus to distinguish between similar places or features and this results in the retrieval of previously experienced aversive or traumatic memories. Importantly, our work has shown that stimulating the capacity to make new brain cells in rodents dampens overgeneralization of fear. We are currently exploring (i) how these new brain cells exert their effects on regulation of fear, (ii) how stress, a known risk factor for PTSD, affects brain circuits underlying fear generalization, and (iii) how genes modulate overgeneralization of fear. Since the brain circuits of the hippocampus of mice and men are similar, we hope that these studies will lead to new therapeutic strategies for treating overgeneralization of fear in patients with PTSD.

To learn more about these research studies visit http://www.massgeneral.org/regenmed/staff/researchlab.aspx?id=1473.

Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Spaulding

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital doctors and researchers are working to develop better treatments for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). This research may lead to new breakthroughs in treatment for these conditions and help to improve the lives of service members and veterans.

MGH has a long tradition of being a leader in medical discoveries. In 1846, MGH was the first hospital to use anesthesia for surgery.  In 2008, MGH developed a device—the size of a credit card—to detect small amounts of cancer cells in the blood stream.

Every day, researchers at MGH take basic scientific discoveries and transform clinical patient care. Almost every treatment, test, drug, or medical device used today is the result of research and the willingness of individuals to participate in order to advance medical care for others.

Facts About Research at Home Base, MGH and Spaulding

Five important facts about research at Home Base, Massachusetts General Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital:

  1. Your participation in research is 100% voluntary. The choice is completely up to you. No patient is ever required to participate in clinical research.

  2. There are many benefits to participating in Home Base research. Your research team includes doctors and other health care professionals who are familiar with the most advanced treatments.
    1. You may have access to study medications and/or therapy that are not widely accessible, at no cost.
    2. You can learn more about your condition and how to manage it..
    3. You will be helping others by contributing to our knowledge and helping identify new treatments for PTSD & TBI.

  3. Research participation will not affect your ability to get care at Home Base. Your care at Home Base will not be impacted if you decide not to participate in a research study. If you do decide to participate in a research study, and give consent, your Home Base clinician will be aware of your research participation and will help to coordinate your treatment.

  4. All MGH research is rigorously scrutinized. Home Base researchers are required to have their studies approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB is composed of scientific experts, clinicians, and community members. The IRB review everything about the study before it begins, including its scientific merit, safety of participants, and ethical considerations.

  5. There are risks to every study. There is no guarantee that the treatment will make you better. Some medications may have side effects. Psychotherapies can temporarily increase distress. We will not hide those risks from you. The Home Base research team will talk about any possible risks with you, and if your symptoms get worse, you can be removed from the study. The Home Base clinical team can then develop a different treatment plan for you.