Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common cause of morbidity in combat veterans, but current treatments are often inadequate. Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM) is a novel treatment that seeks to alter key aspects of the target memory (e.g., color, clarity, speed, distance, perspective) to make it less impactful, and reduce nightmares, flashbacks, and other features of PTSD. The memory is reviewed in the context of an imaginal movie theater, presenting a fast (~45 sec) black and white movie of the trauma memory, with further adjustment as needed so the patient can comfortably watch it. Open and waitlist studies of RTM have reported high response rates and rapid remission, setting the stage for this randomized, controlled, single-blind trial comparing RTM versus prolonged exposure (PE), the PTSD therapy with the strongest current evidence base.
The investigators hypothesize that RTM will be non-inferior to PE in reducing PTSD symptom severity post-treatment and at 1-year follow up; will achieve faster remission, with fewer dropouts; will improve cognitive function; and that epigenetic markers will correlate with treatment response. The investigators will randomize 108 active or retired service members (SMs) with PTSD to ≤10 sessions of RTM or PE, affording power to test our hypotheses while allowing for ≤ 25% dropouts. The investigators will use an intent to treat analysis, and the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, or DSM5 (CAPS-5), conducted by blinded assessors, will be the primary outcome measure. Secondary measures of depression (PHQ-9), anxiety (GAD-7), sleep (PSQI), and functional status (WHOQOL-100), will be assessed pre- and post-treatment, and at 2, 6, and 12 months. ANOVA will compare symptom severity over time within and between groups. Blood draws will be obtained pre- and posttreatment to assess predictors of treatment response and epigenetic markers of change. The NIH Toolbox Neurocognitive Assessment, pre- and post-treatment, will assess impact on cognitive function. The investigators will track comorbid TBI, anticipating it will not adversely impact response. More effective therapies for PTSD, with and without TBI, must be developed and evaluated. RTM is safe and promising, but requires testing against evidence-based interventions in well-designed randomized clinical trials (RCTs). The full study can now be conducted via video conferencing due to COVID-19.