Physiological Correlates of PTSD Before and After MDMA-Assisted Therapy

Investigators: Dominique Holstein MS
Location: University Psychiatric Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland
Sponsor: HMF Zurich, HRC Zurich
Contact: Franz Vollenweider, MD
This study is taking place in conjunction with a randomized, double-blind comparison of low versus experimental doses of MDMA in 12 people with treatment-resisted PTSD, with eight people receiving 125 mg followed by 62.5 mg MDMA, and four people receiving 25 mg followed by 12.5 mg MDMA being conducted by Peter Oehen MD. Dr. Oehen’s study offers a unique opportunity to investigate further possible links between changes in physiological measures associated with the symptomatology of PTSD and improvement in patients undergoing treatment and symptom relief. People with PTSD may have deficits in information processing such as failures in sensory gating or filtering out information. Such measures of inhibition failure include prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle reflex and P50 auditory evoked potential suppression. Measures of impaired cognitive performance include various types of evoked response potential (EEG-ERP). Psychophysiological measures include skin conductance and heart rate variability. Differences in these measures are associated with having PTSD, but they have never been measured in the same individuals as part of a single investigation before. Thus the aim of the present longitudinal study is 1) to characterize PTSD patients using a broad range of physiological candidate measures (PPI, P50, SC, HRV) and cognitive paradigms (P200, P300), and second, to investigate how these measures relate to the symptomatology of PTSD and clinical outcome.
All PTSD patients that participate in Dr. Oehens study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy will be assessed at baseline, before undergoing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and three weeks after the third MDMA-assisted session. On the long run, the assessment of multiple physiological measures in PTSD patients shall further our understanding of the pathophysiology of this illness and increases the possibility to identify subgroups of PTSD patients, and help to identify more specific treatments.