Faculty Mentor: Dr. Victoria Templer, Psychology
Though Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common problem among soldiers, current military programs focus on treating PTSD after combat deployment instead of preventing it. The aim of this project was to examine the neurosteroids allopregnanolone and pregnanolone (together known as ALLO), the SNP rs717947, and pre-deployment virtual-reality resilience training (VRRT) to identify effective PTSD prevention methods. Pre-deployment, a Brigade Combat Team (N=3000) of active-duty US Army soldiers was divided into two groups, a VRRT group and an online tactical training sessions (control) group. Soldiers’ blood plasma levels of ALLO were also measured and their DNA was analyzed for the SNP. They then took the PTSD Checklist for the DSM-V (PCL-5) to measure PTSD symptom severity at baseline. Post-deployment, soldiers took the PCL-5 again to monitor for changes in PTSD symptom severity. This measure was repeated at 1-month, 3-months, and 6-months post-deployment. We found that VRRT led to no change in PCL-5 score, indicating that it successfully mitigated PTSD severity. Further, high ALLO levels protected against PTSD vulnerability. Combined, these two factors prevented against the development of severe PTSD. The presence of the SNP rs717947 increased vulnerability to PTSD, leading to more severe cases of the disorder. Overall, these findings provide support for both biological and psychological prevention methods for PTSD, which can be administered in the future to decrease PTSD prevalence in the military and beyond.
4-29-2021 12:00 AM