Flashing glasses may help PTSD sufferers

Sep 23, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Psychologists in the UK propose using spectacles with flashing lights at each side to identify people likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and possibly to treat them.

Dr. Peter Naish said to BBC his research showed people with PTSD use their brains to process information about the lights in a similar way to people under hypnosis. He said some sufferers seemed to be in a hypnotic state for much of the time, and they can also experience flashbacks and hallucinations that seem real.

Dr. Naish described the case of a survivor of the 2005 terrorist attacks in London who had flashbacks in which she was in the tube train again and believed she was about to die. At other times she thought her brain was confusing her and she was losing . Her confused state could last for days.

Dr. Naish and Dr. Ksenja da Silva, both of the Open University in Milton Keynes, fixed a tiny light on the top outside edge of each lens of a normal pair of sunglasses. They then flashed the lights on and off in turn, and the wearer was asked to identify which light flashed on first.

The brain consists of two hemispheres, with the left hemisphere believed to be more analytical and concerned with details, and the right more concerned with wider issues. The researchers could tell from which light the subject thought came on first, which hemisphere they were using. They tested two groups of Slovenian refugees, one with PTSD, and the other group without PTSD.

They found subjects without PTSD used both hemispheres of the brain, but some had a preference for the left side, while those suffering from PTSD tended to use their right hemisphere.

Earlier work by Naish and colleagues had identified that people processed the light information differently when they were under hypnosis than when they were not. Under hypnosis they used the right brain in preference, but used the left when not hypnotised. The results with the PTSD sufferers suggest they were in a hypnotic state most of the time.

Only around 30 percent of people who have experienced a traumatic situation go on to develop PTSD. Psychological counseling can help them, but for the 70 percent who will not develop PTSD it can make things worse. Having a means of predicting who is likely to go on to develop the disorder would allow psychologists to identify those most likely to benefit from treatment.

Dr. Naish also said it may be possible to use the glasses to try to “drag people back” to reality if they were putting too much emphasis on their right brains.

The findings were presented at the British Science Association Festival, which ran from September 14 to 19 at Aston University in Birmingham.

Podcast: Dr Peter Naish on :

Explore further: Early exposure to antidepressants affects adult anxiety and serotonin transmission

More information: Hypnosis and hemispheric asymmetry, Naish PL. Conscious Cogn. 2010 Mar;19(1):230-4. Epub 2009 Nov 8. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19900824
Via: BBC

Related Stories

'Trauma pill' could help those with PTSD

Jan 30, 2006

A "trauma pill" could blot out memories of harrowing events for combat veterans and survivors of accidents or terrorism, say Canadian researchers.

Women in their 50s more prone to PTSD than men

Jul 20, 2010

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates peak in women later than they do in men. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Annals of General Psychiatry found that men are most vulnerable to PTSD betwee ...

Study re-examines Vietnam stress disorder

Aug 18, 2006

A review of an 18-year-old U.S. study of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by Vietnam veterans found sharply fewer were affected than originally reported.

Recommended for you

Mindfulness helps teens cope with stress, anxiety

3 hours ago

As the morning school bell rings and students rush through crowded corridors, teenagers in one Portland classroom settle onto mats and meditation pillows. They fall silent after the teacher taps a Tibetan ...

Study links suicide risk with insomnia, alcohol use

6 hours ago

A new study is the first to show that insomnia symptoms mediate the relationship between alcohol use and suicide risk, and that this mediation is moderated by gender. The study suggests that the targeted ...

Echolocation acts as substitute sense for blind people

12 hours ago

Recent research carried out by scientists at Heriot-Watt University has demonstrated that human echolocation operates as a viable 'sense', working in tandem with other senses to deliver information to people with visual impairment.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.