Enhancing Exposure Therapy for PTSD: Virtual Reality and Imaginal Exposure with a Cognitive Enhancer


This study is no longer recruiting. The population recruited were participants with trauma related to deployment in either Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.


The purpose of this study was to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from exposure to the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Participants were randomly be assigned to receive traditional prolonged exposure therapy or prolonged exposure therapy combined with Virtual Reality. We were also examining the effects of using D-Cycloserine (DCS) in conjunction with treatment.


Treatment was offered on an individual basis for 9 weekly treatment sessions lasting approximately 90 minutes each, along with a 3-month follow-up session that allows us to track your progress after the study has been completed.

Prolonged exposure therapy consists of cognitive-behavioral treatment, which aims to introduce skills and techniques that will reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. One essential component of the treatment includes describing one's traumatic experiences. Some participants were treated with traditional techniques, while others' treatment will incorporate virtual reality therapy to enhance the ability to retell their experiences. These participants were presented with a computerized Virtual Reality Iraq/Afghanistan combat scenario, in which they saw and heard "virtual environment" through a headset. In addition, participants were randomly assigned to take either a low dose of D-Cycloserine (DCS; a broad-spectrum antibiotic) or a placebo (sugar) pill prior to their weekly session to examine the effects of DCS on treatment. Thus, treatment incorporates traditional techniques that have been shown to be effective in treating PTSD, with cutting-edge technology and pharmacology to enhance the treatment.

This study is currently under data analysis. 

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