ORLANDO - Virtual reality explosions and smells of smoke will be part of the University of Central Florida's experimental therapy program for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. UCF researchers are launching a three-year study to test a new way to help servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. [audio:http://eunalhee.com/wp-content/uploads/Lhee_PTSD.mp3|titles=PTSD|artists=Lhee]
The UCF study includes two components. The first will expose participants to images, sounds and smells of trauma they experienced in Iraq or Afghanistan. That could include sounds of gunfire, images of bridges blowing up and even the stench of garbage – a smell reminiscent of street patrol duty.
The second part of the study involves small group therapy sessions, where soldiers will learn problem-solving skills and deal with anger management and feelings of depression.
UCF’s Deborah Beidel is leading the study in Orlando.
"The combination of exposure and the skills training is brand new," Beidel said. "It’s not been done before in people with PTSD from Iraq and Afghanistan."
Researchers are recruiting about 60 military personnel from Central Florida for the study. Another 60 will come from Charleston, South Carolina.
The U.S. Army is funding the $3.5 million project. [HealthyState.org | FPR Spot]