New research published about brain activity and micromovements predicting treatment success in military personnel with PTSD

Assistant professor Dr. Remko van Lutterveld and colleagues have published a new research paper about brain activity and subconscious micromovements predicting psychotherapy treatment success in military personnel with PTSD.

Screenshot of the journal article by dr. Lutterveld

Aims of the study

Psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is effective in about half of all patients. We investigated whether brain activity in a network context and subconscious micromovements of the head differ between patients with PTSD for whom therapy proved effective later (therapy responders) compared with patients for whom therapy proved ineffective later (therapy non-responders).

Results of this study

Forty-six military personnel with PTSD who were about to start psychotherapy enrolled in the study. Twenty-four patients were later classified as therapy responders and 22 as therapy non-responders. Results showed that:

  • Prospective therapy responders exhibited different brain activity in a network context in several brain regions compared to therapy non-responders, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This area is involved in working memory processes. Other brain areas differing between groups were regions commonly involved in attentional and action processes, learning, and visual information processing.

Prospective therapy responders had less micromovements of the head than therapy non-responders.

Conclusions based on this study

These results show that brain activity in a network context and micromovements are related to future PTSD psychotherapy treatment response. Follow-up research (e.g., PATROL and REMIND) will further build upon these findings.