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Clinical trial tests deep
brain stimulation for
treatment-resistant PTSD

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Serena has lived with severe PTSD for decades, having survived unspeakable abuse, multiple traumas and profound personal loss.

"Living with PTSD is like a never-ending nightmare," Serena says. "Intrusive thoughts and images haunt me while I'm sleeping and while I'm awake. It feels like there is danger lurking around every corner. I live in an almost persistent state of fear, anxiety, paranoia and hyper-vigilance."

Serena holding photos of her late daughter
Serena holding photos of her late daughter, Harley. (Photograph by Kevin Van Paassen)

A Promising New Treatment

Over the years, Serena tried every available form of treatment, but nothing worked. Then she learned about a new clinical trial at Sunnybrook testing deep brain stimulation (DBS) for treatment-resistant PTSD.

DBS is a form of neuromodulation, which is a rapidly evolving field that focuses on the ability to influence malfunctioning brain circuitry. DBS uses implanted electrodes and external electrical stimulation to target abnormal activity in areas of the brain affected by PTSD — like a pacemaker for the brain.

Serena and her husband Ron
Serena and her husband Ron after the treatment. (Photograph by Kevin Van Paassen)

Blazing the Trail for Others

Serena's ultimate dream is that DBS will be the treatment that finally works for her. So far, results have been promising: 10 weeks after her treatment, Serena's reactions to triggers began to diminish and she has not experienced side effects since. She goes out more and was recently accepted to university, where she hopes to complete her degree in psychology.

By being a part of the trial, and by sharing her story and experience, Serena also wants to help raise awareness about PTSD and the research being done to find new treatments.

"I hope this study is successful, and that DBS can be used in the future to treat others like me, who have not found relief and healing by any other means. How amazing would that be to give people who have treatment-resistant PTSD their lives back!"

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