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Meditation for Emotional Numbing in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT02163941
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : June 16, 2014
Last Update Posted : August 2, 2016
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
Mind and Life Institute, Hadley, Massachusetts
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Jennifer Mascaro, Emory University

Brief Summary:
For individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the emotional numbing and isolation that are a core aspect of their suffering and consistently impedes remediation often remains after first-line treatments are administered. Few interventions have proven successful for enhancing the empathy and social connectedness that will ultimately allow patients to flourish, and the search for target therapies is made more difficult by the fact that very little is known about the underlying physiology of emotional numbing and social isolation. The proposed study is designed to (1) investigate the hormonal, neural and immunological biomarkers related to emotional numbing, and (2) test whether cognitively-based compassion training (CBCT), an intervention designed and proven to enhance empathy, will reduce emotional numbing and increase empathy and social connectedness in veterans. To this end, thirty medically healthy males diagnosed with PTSD who continue to report emotional numbing symptoms after prolonged exposure therapy will receive 8 weeks of training in CBCT. Prior to, and again after the training, the investigators will assess patients' levels of oxytocin, inflammation, and self-reported emotional numbing and social connectedness. The investigators will also assess their neural response during a video task that assesses their ability to accurately read others' emotions. The investigators hypothesize that oxytocin, neural activity, and inflammation will predict social numbing, isolation, and empathy, and also that CBCT will positively impact the social outcomes that will pave the way toward health and well-being.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Prolonged Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Behavioral: Compassion Training Phase 1

Detailed Description:
Thirty otherwise medically healthy males between the ages of 25 and 55 who have previously met criteria for PTSD and have undergone prolonged exposure therapy (PET) yet continue to report emotional numbing symptoms as a chief complaint will be assessed for baseline levels of plasma oxytocin (OT), markers of pro-inflammatory cytokines, total mRNA expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), self-reported emotional numbing and social connectedness, and empathy. Real-world social connectedness will be assessed using an Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) for two days, which will randomly record 50 second snippets of audio every 9 minutes and which will allow for quantification of time spent with others. Measures of empathy will include empathic accuracy during a dynamic empathic accuracy (EA) video task, which asks participants to rate what story-tellers are feeling while they tell positively and negatively valenced autobiographical stories. Because previous studies have shown that PTSD may interfere with subtle social processing skills and because one of the primary aims of this proposal is to uncover specific biomarkers related to self-reported emotional numbing, the investigators will also assess eye gaze and arousal covariance (correlation between skin conductance of video subject and that of study participant) during the EA task. Following baseline assessments, participants will participate in 8 weeks of CBCT, which entails twice-weekly meetings consisting of didactic information sessions and approximately 20 minutes of CBCT practice. Participants will be asked to practice at home for 20 minutes per day, and will be given a audio compact discs to guide at-home meditation. Upon completion of CBCT (Time 2), and again after 8-12 weeks (Time 3), all Time 1 assessments will be repeated.

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 20 participants
Allocation: N/A
Intervention Model: Single Group Assignment
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Basic Science
Official Title: Meditation Training for Emotional Numbing in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Study Start Date : May 2014
Actual Primary Completion Date : May 2016
Actual Study Completion Date : May 2016

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: Compassion Training
8 weeks of training in Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT). Classes will meet once per week for 2 hours and participants will be asked to meditate at home for 20 minute each day.
Behavioral: Compassion Training
Other Names:
  • Cognitively-Based Compassion Training
  • CBCT

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Social connectedness [ Time Frame: up to 3 months ]
    Self-report questionnaire assessment of social connectedness

  2. Empathic Accuracy [ Time Frame: up to 3 months ]
    objective performance assessing accuracy of reading others' emotions

  3. Social Interactions [ Time Frame: up to 3 months ]
    objective measures of time spent with others as measured by an audio sampling device

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) [ Time Frame: up to 3 months ]
    gene expression related to inflammation.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   25 Years to 65 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   Male
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • previously met criteria for PTSD
  • completed front-line treatment such as prolonged exposure therapy
  • continue to report emotional numbing symptoms as a chief complaint

Exclusion Criteria (at the discretion of the researchers):

  • Self-reported psychotic symptoms, current major depression, or suicidal ideation
  • Self-reported active alcohol or drug abuse within the past six months
  • Self-reported depression serious enough to require hospitalization, or that resulted in a suicide attempt, within the last year.
  • Self-reported auto-immune disease such as lupus, crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Self-reported use of psychotropic medication, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics or chronic benzodiazepine therapy that has changed in the past 6 weeks.
  • Self-reported use of any medication that might strongly affect your stress or immune systems, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, COX-2 inhibitors, corticosteroids, beta-blockers or statins.
  • Claustrophobia
  • Ferromagnetic implants contraindicated by functional MRI (fMRI) safety regulations

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT02163941

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United States, Georgia
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia, United States, 30322
Sponsors and Collaborators
Emory University
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
Mind and Life Institute, Hadley, Massachusetts
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Principal Investigator: Jennifer S Mascaro, PhD Emory University
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Responsible Party: Jennifer Mascaro, Instructor, Emory University Identifier: NCT02163941    
Other Study ID Numbers: IRB00070643
First Posted: June 16, 2014    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: August 2, 2016
Last Verified: July 2016
Keywords provided by Jennifer Mascaro, Emory University:
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Stress Disorders, Traumatic
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders
Mental Disorders