Autism treatment helps veterans with PTSD

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A treatment used to help children with autism by stimulating areas of the brain that don't work the way they should is being applied to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jonathan Warren left the Army four years ago. The staff sergeant served two tours in Iraq and earned two purple hearts.

He's now back in Orange County, but one memory from the war continues to haunt him.

"I had a traumatic brain injury, cerebral spinal fluid and blood coming out of my ears, and watched my best friend burn alive," Warren said.

In 2006, Warren and his team were in a Humvee hit by an IED blast. Remarkably, no one died. But while Warren's physical wounds healed, his psyche was damaged. He didn't know how badly, until he returned to civilian life.

"Everybody was a threat, so I was always sizing people up, seeing if they had a bomb," Warren said.

He was showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder - anxious, depressed and unable to sleep. He tried to self-medicate by using pain killers, alcohol and marijuana. He tried therapy. Nothing worked.

Then about a year ago, someone referred him to the Brain Treatment Center in Newport Beach.

"We're using very powerful magnetic fields to change literally how the brain is working, the frequencies of which the brain is running," said Dr. Robert Silvetz, chief science officer and physician liaison at Brain Treatment Center.

Known as neuromodulation, the treatment is typically used to help children with autism by stimulating areas of the brain that don't work the way they should.

Doctors at the Brain Treatment Center believe it can also help veterans by restoring parts of the brain affected by war.

The first step is scanning the person's brain and showing them what is causing certain issues. Then the doctors work to fix the problems.

"My anxiety was gone and I had quieted down in my head. I was actually able to be present with my friends and family," Warren said.

He also stopped abusing drugs and alcohol. Now he works at the center as a veteran liaison, encouraging others to try neuromodulation.

Army veteran Joseph Hummel began therapy a few months ago.

"My wife had a 30 minute conversation with her son for the first time in 14 years. It was unbelievable," Hummel said.

The treatment for veterans is expected to be in clinical testing until 2015, according to center officials. Expert neurologists, however, have thrown their support behind it.

"This type of approach will have a very significant impact on how we treat neurological diseases," said Dr. Charles Liu, director of USC Neurorestoration Center.

The Brain Treatment Center also recently received a $100,000 grant from the Infinite Hero Foundation, an organization that funds innovative programs to help veterans.

Warren says the goal is to give hope to the men and women who gave so much to protect our country.

"There's no limiting factor for coming to seek treatment. It's going to take away the PTSD," Warren said.


Related Topics:
healthveteranveteransmental healthNewport Beach
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