Psychological counseling and medications have been most commonly given to
victims of posttraumatic stress disorder who experience a traumatic event. But
now, magnetic stimulation of the brain has been found in preliminary trials at
Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem to alleviate
The hospital’s psychiatry department teamed up with Jerusalem’s
Brainsway company, which initiated and funded the study of deep transcranial
magnetic stimulation (DTMS).
The painless, non-invasive treatment is also
being used against bipolar (manicdepressive) disorder and other psychiatric
problems. According to Hadassah, results of the DTMS treatment show so far that
it is effective and safe in treating PTSD, whose symptoms include reliving the
event, thus disturbing daily routines; repeated nightmares; strong,
uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind victims of trauma of the
event; emotional “numbing”; a feeling of detachment and lacking a future;
avoiding places, people or thoughts that remind them of the event; difficulty
concentrating; irritability; and sleep problems, among others. The magnetic
signals cause electrical changes that “wake up” brain neurons, the psychiatrists
According to surveys, seven percent of the general population in
Israel suffers from PTSD – an accumulation of suffering resulting from the
Holocaust through terror attacks, road accidents, wars and other
The technique has been used for about a decade on people with
depression, but the Brainsway device allowed stimulation of larger and deeper
sections of the cerebral cortex.
“The technique deals with the needs of
people suffering from serious or resistant aspects of the syndrome,” explained
Hadassah’s Dr. Moshe Isserles, who heads the team. “The problem is that for a
significant number of sufferers, medications and psychological care aren’t
effective enough, and many symptoms remain.
Thirty patients volunteered
to take part and were divided into three groups: The first received DTMS after a
short recall of the traumatic event; the second received the magnetic treatment
without recalling the event; and a third received a placebo treatment without
magnets. after recalled the trauma.
Data on 26 patients who received at
least eight treatments each were analyzed according to the
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale. An objective analysis showed that the first
group improved significantly, with less improvement in the second group. The
benefits continued from the beginning of treatment until it ended, and the
improvement remained so two months after that. In the patients who received a
placebo, there was no decline in symptoms.
Isserles explained that the
number of nightmares, flashbacks, overstimulation and avoidance declined
significantly, while moods and functions improved.
“This was the first
study of its type in DTMS; very few studies on the effects of magnetic signals
have included not only the stimulation but also recollection of the trauma,” he
“Many studies identified reduced brain activity in a certain region
of frontal cerebra; cortex and increased activity in the amygdala (responsible,
among other things, for reactions to fear). Using DTMS can help reduce
exaggerated fears that are the basis for PTSD,” concluded Isserles, who will
expand the clinical work.INHERITING STRESS
Adversity and enrichment at a
young age can influence the next generation, according to psychologists at the
University of Haifa.
Prof. Micah Leshem headed the team along with Prof.
Jay Schulkin of Georgetown University and postgraduate students Hiba Zaidan and
Neta Kvetniy- Ferdman, They published their findings recently in the journal
The lab study found that stress experienced
by young female rats can impair their future offspring, but can also improve
resilience. It also found that providing the young stressed females with an
enriched environment (often used to model therapy), can indeed relieve some of
“The similarities between rats and humans raise the question
of whether similar effects might transpire in humans; for example, exposure to
war or natural disasters might have heritable effects,” explained
Rats exposed to stress during early development inherit the
effects of that stress to their offspring, largely expressed in behavior
impairments but also characteristics of resilience. Providing environmental
enrichment to the future mother rats had a remedial role on some of the negative
effects. The team set out to examine the cross-generational effects of early
exposure to stress and enrichment.
The researchers examined rats because
of their resemblance to humans and their rapid rate of development and
reproduction, which facilitates crossgenerational studies.
They worked on
40 female rats weaned when they were 27 days old. One group of these females –
the control group – was then raised normally in individual cages; the second
group was exposed to different stressors; the third was enriched; and the fourth
group was both stressed and enriched.
The matured rats were mated at 60
days, had normal pregnancies and births, and their offspring pups were divided
into two groups – one raised normally and the other raised in an enriched
environment, so that the effect of “therapy” on the next generation could also
be evaluated. The offspring groups were then evaluated with respect to social
interaction, anxiety levels, ability to learn and capacity to cope with
The study’s main findings showed that the early treatment of the
mothers impacted their offspring behavior. Stress to the mothers reduced social
interaction in their offspring, but improved their ability to learn to avoid
distress. Male offspring were also better at coping with fear. Some of these
changes were mitigated by enrichment to the mothers, so that stressing the
mothers and then providing them with a “therapeutic” (enriched) environment,
prevented some, but not all, of the effects in the next
Providing enrichment to the offspring also offset some of the
According to the researchers, their study “suggests
that evolution equipped the parent generation to sample its environment, and
then, possibly via heritable epigenetic changes, to prepare the next generation
to better cope with this environment,” Leshem explained.
“It is important
to investigate whether stressful experiences at a young age affect the next
generation and whether therapeutic experiences can minimize the
trans-generational effects in humans too.
As our study shows that the
inheritance of the effects of adversity can be modified by timely intervention,
this may have important educational and therapeutic implications,” he concluded.
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