Joke Bradt, an associate professor of the college of nursing and health professions at Drexel University, is researching an innovative way to use music to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. The project is the first of its kind and aims to create a means to carry a portable and convenient method of music therapy for veterans and PTSD patients.
The treatment is aimed for military veterans and other people who struggle to manage their PTSD when confronted with stimuli. The project is also being done in collaboration with other researchers, some of who are also active military personnel, from the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, which leads the field in research on traumatic brain injury and mental health issues.
PTSD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying, or in other words traumatic, event and its symptoms include severe anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares and an uncontrollable fixation on the event. PTSD effects veterans at a far increased rate than that of the general population, with some 30.9 percent of U.S. veterans reporting to experience PTSD compared to just 6.8 percent of overall adult Americans, according to the National Center for PTSD. Veterans account for a significant portion of Drexel’s student body with the University ranked in the top 15 percent of schools that embrace U.S. veterans.
Bradt explained that her study will “examine the impact of listening to music on areas in the brain that are involved in emotional regulation in soldiers with PTSD.” According to Bradt, previous studies have established that music can have a significant effect on the areas of the brain that control emotional regulation, but Bradt’s will be the first to attempt to apply those methods to the treatment of PTSD. She’s also hoping to address questions on the value of a board certified music therapist or whether the music can have the same impact when self-administered.
The project is still in its early stages, only having been in production for about a week. Bradt has stated that most of the real work won’t start until at least August when they will begin to recruit subjects.
The study will follow three groups of soldiers with obvious differences for variable and control groups. One with PTSD, who will receive the music therapy, another group, also with PTSD, who won’t and a third, without PTSD and not receiving music therapy as the control group Bradt hopes that the study will yield results showing that those receiving the therapy will show significant improvement over those who are not.
Bradt also said that even when the study — which she termed “exploratory” — is complete, it will still be a long time until we see changes in PTSD treatment, as the study will need to be replicated with a much larger sample to be deemed accurate. “If we can replicate these results in a larger study, this could have implications for helping soldiers with PTSD with emotional regulation via a very accessible medium,” Bradt said. “Listening to music will not cure PTSD, of course, but we hope we can teach soldiers specific techniques for how to use music effectively for emotional regulation.”
Bradt has yet to reach out to Drexel’s student veteran community about her work. The study will take place at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, which is based out of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.