Neural and Cognitive Correlates of Glucocorticoid Responsiveness in PTSD

ID Number 08-0071

Contact Information
Nikita Agrawal
Tel: 718-741-4000 x5183
E-mail: nikita.agrawal@va.gov

Veterans over the age of 30 with combat or other service-related traumatic experiences are eligible to participate in this study.

Combat trauma survivors describe memory problems that range from distressing and unwanted memories of past traumatic events, being unable to remember important details of daily life, and problems with concentration and attention. Some of these memory and concentration problems are a part of normal aging - as we get older, our ability to learn new information and remember things worsens. However, people with PTSD may experience an accelerated decline in these cognitive functions.

The purpose of this study is to measure how the brain works during performance of routine learning and memory tasks by taking pictures of your brain in an MRI scanner while you solve the tasks. Additionally, we will test how cortisol augmentation affects your memory and learning.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that is typically produced in higher levels in response to stressful experiences, and is known to help improve attention and learning. Participants in the study will take either a low dose of hydrocortisone (man-made cortisol) or a placebo before several tests of brain and cognitive function.

For this study, we will compare brain images and memory performance in three groups of combat veterans: veterans who have:

  • No past PTSD
  • Past but no current PTSD
  • Current PTSD

The study procedure involves two study visits between one and two weeks apart, during which participants will receive either a placebo or a low dose of hydrocortisone (synthetic cortisol), followed by a PET scan procedure accompanied by four blood draws done with IV. They will then participate in a short battery of tests involving memory and attention, and undergo a brain MRI on one visit. Appointments can be scheduled as convenient for you. You will be compensated up to $450 for your time.

Please call Nikita Agrawal at 718-741-4000 x5183 if you are interested in participating or have any questions.