We're building a better ClinicalTrials.gov. Check it out and tell us what you think!
ClinicalTrials.gov Menu

tDCS Plus Virtual Reality for PTSD (TAVRE)

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. Know the risks and potential benefits of clinical studies and talk to your health care provider before participating. Read our disclaimer for details.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03372460
Recruitment Status : Recruiting
First Posted : December 13, 2017
Last Update Posted : January 27, 2023
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
VA Office of Research and Development

Brief Summary:
This study will test the effectiveness of combining non-invasive brain stimulation, called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), with virtual reality exposure as a treatment for Veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Investigators will test whether this intervention improves PTSD symptoms and improves quality of life. Results from this study may be used to develop a new non-medication approach to treating chronic PTSD.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Device: Active stimulation Device: Sham stimulation Other: Virtual Reality (VR) Not Applicable

Detailed Description:

PTSD is highly prevalent in Veterans and is associated with significant psychiatric and medical comorbidity, as well as poor quality of life. Despite its prevalence and impact, the success of currently available treatments is mixed, highlighting the need for novel approaches that aim to reduce symptoms and improve outcomes. Prior research has demonstrated that reduced activity in a part of the brain, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), is associated with an inability to regulate fear responses, preventing the generation of safety memories and allowing PTSD symptoms to persist. Targeting the VMPFC with non-invasive electrical brain stimulation may therefore alleviate these symptoms.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a type of non-invasive brain stimulation that may enhance the likelihood of neuronal activity in the VMPFC. In doing so, tDCS prepares the brain to respond to external stimuli and to facilitate learning and memory. Because therapeutic success from exposure to trauma-related content - as used in exposure-based therapy for PTSD - is thought to be based on an adaptive learning process, applying tDCS in combination with exposure to trauma cues may effectively boost exposure-based learning. To do this, investigators at the Providence VA Medical Center will use a standardized virtual reality (VR) setting to deliver trauma-related content. The virtual reality setting involves three, 8-minute driving scenarios, which consist of VR stimuli (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) often encountered in combat training and in theater.

Eligible participants will be randomized to receive six sessions of either active tDCS plus virtual reality (tDCS+VR) or sham tDCS+VR. Clinical and self-report assessments will be completed at baseline, midpoint, and endpoint, as well as 1 and 3 months following the final tDCS+VR session. Participants will also undergo a MRI before and after completion of all six tDCS+VR sessions to assess change over time. Additionally, MRI data will be used for electrical field modeling to predict treatment response based on individually obtained electrical field values in PTSD relevant neural circuitry. Participants may also choose to participate in an optional pre-tDCS+VR session EEG and an optional 1-month follow-up MRI.

Layout table for study information
Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Estimated Enrollment : 90 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Intervention Model Description: Participants are assigned to receive either active or sham stimulation during the tDCS+VR sessions in parallel for the duration of the study
Masking: Double (Participant, Investigator)
Masking Description: double blind tDCS
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Combined Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and Virtual Reality for PTSD
Actual Study Start Date : April 2, 2018
Estimated Primary Completion Date : August 1, 2023
Estimated Study Completion Date : August 1, 2023

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

Arm Intervention/treatment
Active Comparator: Active Stimulation
Active stimulation (tDCS) will be used in the dose of 2mA /25 min per day, for 6 sessions over the course of 2 weeks (3 sessions per week).
Device: Active stimulation
For active tDCS, the investigators will use a 1x1 configuration with the anode placed over EEG coordinate AF7 (using the 10-20 EEG convention) and the cathode over Fz. The investigators will use 3x3 cm sponge covered electrodes and a 2mA current for 25 minutes per session.
Other Name: Active tDCS

Other: Virtual Reality (VR)
Participants will undergo VR exposure to trauma-related context.

Sham Comparator: Sham Stimulation
Sham tDCS will include a 30-second ramp up to 1mA, 30 seconds of stimulation at 1mA, followed by a 30-second ramp down to off. The device will remain off for the remainder of the session. This process will be used for each of the 6 sessions during a 2 week period.
Device: Sham stimulation
For sham tDCS, the investigators will use the same configuration of active tDCS, with the anode over AF7 and the cathode over Fz. The investigators will use 3x3 cm sponge covered electrodes and 1mA for 30 seconds, with a ramp up/down over 30 seconds per session.
Other Name: Sham tDCS

Other: Virtual Reality (VR)
Participants will undergo VR exposure to trauma-related context.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) Total Score [ Time Frame: Average 2.5 weeks ]
    The PCL-5 is a 20-item self-report measure that assesses the 20 DSM-5 symptoms of PTSD. Items are rated on how much the symptom bothered the respondent in the past month (0 = "not at all bothered by" to 4 = "extremely bothered "). A total symptom severity score (range: 0-80) can be obtained by summing the scores for each of the 20 items, with higher scores indicating more severe PTSD symptoms.

  2. Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire (QLESQ) [ Time Frame: Average 2.5 weeks ]
    The 16-item QLESQ (short form) evaluates quality of life and other areas of change related to functioning outside of symptom domains (e.g., physical health, mood, leisure time activities, social relationships, etc.). Items are rated on how satisfied the respondent has been in the past week (1 = "very poor" to 5 = "very good "). A total raw score (range: 14-70). The raw total score is transformed into a percentage maximum possible score using the following formula: (raw total score minimum score)/(maximum possible raw score minimum score). Higher outcomes indicate better quality of life, greater enjoyment, and satisfaction.

  3. Psychophysiology (Skin Conductance Reactivity; SCR) [ Time Frame: Average 2.5 weeks ]
    Psychophysiology will include skin conductance reactivity to specific trauma context virtual reality (VR) cues presented in the VR scenario. SCR to VR events will be measured by the phasic responses that occur after the presentation of discreet VR events. SCR will be compared from baseline to endpoint, to correlate these measures and evaluate changes attributable to active tDCS+VR compared to sham.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

Layout table for eligibility information
Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 70 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Must be a Veteran
  • Located in the greater Providence and Boston areas
  • Have a diagnosis of chronic PTSD, meeting DSM-5 criteria
  • If in treatment, symptomatic despite ongoing stable treatment regimens for at least 6 weeks prior to study procedures.
  • Willing and able to comply with all study related procedures and visits
  • Capable of independently reading and understanding study materials and providing informed consent.

Exclusion Criteria:

Contraindications to MRI or tDCS, including:

  • Implanted device (e.g., deep brain stimulation) or metal in the brain, cervical spinal cord, or upper thoracic spinal cord.
  • Skin lesions at the site of stimulation that may increase conductance (e.g., vascular moles or angiomas)
  • Pregnancy/lactation, or planning to become pregnant during the study
  • Lifetime history of moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Current unstable medical conditions
  • Current (or past if appropriate) significant neurological disorder, or lifetime history of a) seizure disorder b) primary or secondary CNS tumors c) stroke or d) cerebral aneurysm.

Other exclusions:

  • Primary psychotic disorder
  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Active moderate/severe substance use disorders (within the last month, excluding nicotine/caffeine)
  • Active suicidal intent or plan as detected on screening instruments or in the investigative team's judgment is likely to attempt suicide within 6 months
  • Other conditions or circumstances that, in the opinion of the investigator team, have the potential to prevent completion and/or have a confounding effect on outcome assessments.

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 ClinicalTrials.gov identifier (NCT number): NCT03372460

Layout table for location contacts
Contact: Noah S Philip, MD (401) 273-7100 ext 6200 noah.philip@va.gov
Contact: Mascha Frank, PhD (401) 273-7100 ext 6256 mascha.frank@va.gov

Layout table for location information
United States, Rhode Island
Providence VA Medical Center, Providence, RI Recruiting
Providence, Rhode Island, United States, 02908-4734
Contact: Sydney K Brigido, BA    401-273-7100 ext 4328    Sydney.Brigido@va.gov   
Contact: Noah S Philip, MD    (401) 273-7100 ext 6200    noah.philip@va.gov   
Principal Investigator: Noah S. Philip, MD         
Sponsors and Collaborators
VA Office of Research and Development
Layout table for investigator information
Principal Investigator: Noah S. Philip, MD Providence VA Medical Center, Providence, RI
Layout table for additonal information
Responsible Party: VA Office of Research and Development
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03372460    
Other Study ID Numbers: D2450-R
2017-053 ( Other Identifier: PVAMC IRB )
1633742 ( Other Identifier: PVAMC IRB )
First Posted: December 13, 2017    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: January 27, 2023
Last Verified: January 2023
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD: No

Layout table for additional information
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: Yes
Product Manufactured in and Exported from the U.S.: No
Keywords provided by VA Office of Research and Development:
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Virtual Reality
Prefrontal Cortex
Quality of Life
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Layout table for MeSH terms
Stress Disorders, Traumatic
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders
Mental Disorders