Mindfulness therapy, which helps patients focus on being in the present, may be an effective treatment course for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reports an article on Medical Daily.
Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System split 23 Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans into two groups – the control group with nine veterans, and the experimental group with 14.
The control group underwent regular therapy sessions while the experimental group underwent sessions including mindfulness therapy and training.
The veterans who learned mindfulness improved more than their peers in the control group, experiencing lessened symptoms and greater relief.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to monitor brain activity in the participants and compare results. Before therapy, researchers noted that the veterans’ brains showed heightened activity in the area of the brain associated with threat response and a lack of activity in the area of the brain associated with reflective thinking.
The fMRI images indicate that mindfulness training help veterans with PTSD develop stronger connections between one brain network that is involved with processing thoughts and another brain network that is involved with shifting and directing attention.
“The brain findings suggest that mindfulness training may have helped the veterans develop more capacity to shift their attention and get themselves out of being ‘stuck’ in painful cycles of thoughts,” King said. “We hope it may provide emotional regulation skills to help bring them to a place where they feel better able to process their traumas.”
While this study is promising, it was conducted on a small sample size. The study authors do not recommend mindfulness training as the sole treatment for PTSD and note that a trained counselor should conduct mindfulness sessions as the training can trigger symptoms.
Source: Liberzon I, King A, et al. Depression and Anxiety. 2016.