Participation in Research


Current treatments for PTSD have only modest efficacy. In fact, about half of the people with PTSD do not respond to current treatments. Millions of trauma-exposed people may likely remain symptomatic, and at high risk to develop chronic and disabling PTSD. 

In response to this critical gap in the scientific knowledge, our research team at Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute is focused on a) facilitating new understanding of the biological basis of PTSD, b) developing and testing new treatment approaches to address PTSD, and c) integrating this knowledge in order to advance better targeted, more personalized treatments for patients with PTSD.

Ongoing Projects

Digital Mental Health Care for COVID-19 High-Risk Populations

Principal Investigators: Yuval Neria, PhD, Lisa Dixon, M.D., M.P.H., Doron Amsalem, M.D., Thomas E. Smith, M.D.

Overview of the Study:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. While the physical risk, vaccine development, and therapeutics are receiving the most scientific and clinical attention, a mental health crisis is ensuing. In partnership with the New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH), this project will develop, test and implement cost-effective, scalable and interactive digitally-delivered mental health interventions to meet the growing mental health needs among high-risk groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. These interventions combine video and interactive modules to both empower individuals to seek treatment for mental health issues as well as to change behaviors that have been shown to improve well-being and reduce psychiatric symptoms.

A Research Trial of Brexpiprazole and Sertraline in the Treatment of PTSD (IRB#7912)

Principal Investigator: Franklin Schneier, M.D.

Overview of the Study:

We are currently enrolling individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to participate in this research study. The purpose of this research study is to evaluate the effectiveness of an investigational medication, brexipiprazole, for PTSD. Eligible participants will be randomly assigned to receive either the study medication or a placebo (sugar pill with no medication), and will complete questionnaires and be monitored by a medical professional throughout the study.

If you are interested in participating, please contact our research assistant Gloria Gomez at (646) 450-4572.

Neural, Behavioral, and Endocrine Correlates of PTSD Among Women (IRB #8099)

Principal Investigators at Columbia: Yuval Neria, PhD & Xi Zhu, PhD

Principal Investigator at Souraski Medical Center: Liat Helpman, PhD

Overview of the Study:

Women are disproportionately affected by PTSD, yet are underrepresented in the literature, precluding mechanistic understanding of female-specific risk. The aims of this project are to bridge existing gaps in understanding of behavioral, neural and endocrine mechanisms linking traumatic events to the development of PTSD. Specifically, it aims to 1) examine the relationships between PTSD and limbic resting state functional connectivity (rs-FC) among trauma exposed females 2) examine the role of fear overgeneralization among females with PTSD, and 3) establish estrogen modulation of fear overgeneralization and limbic rs-FC. The study is conducted at the Souraski Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, and at the PTSD lab at Columbia Psychiatry.

Assessing Distress and Increasing Help-Seeking in US Healthcare Workers (IRB #8032)

Principal Investigator: Doron Amsalem, M.D.

Overview of the Study:

Healthcare workers were positioned in the front-line of the Covid-19 pandemic, facing enormous stress and greater risk for anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moral injury, a betrayal to one’s values and beliefs, became a major concern. However, many healthcare workers do not seek help. This study screened for psychopathology and moral injury, and evaluated the efficacy of a brief, social-contact-based video intervention in increasing help-seeking intentions among healthcare workers. We anticipated finding high rates of psychopathology and moral injury and increasing in help-seeking intentions across video groups.

Identification of Distinct Multimodal Biotypes of PTSD Using Data Driven Approach: A Multisite Big Data Study (IRB #8033)

Principal Investigator: Xi Zhu, PhD

Overview of the Study:

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a highly prevalent and debilitating disorder. Despite efforts to characterize the pathophysiology of PTSD and its heterogeneity, no objective biomarker has been established to aid in diagnosis, and prediction of treatment response. This 4-year NIMH funded research project will develop data-driven computational models to identify multimodal neural biomarkers of PTSD (supervised) and multimodal biotypes of PTSD (unsupervised) and explore whether such biotypes could be used to predict response to prolonged exposure (PE), the first line treatment for PTSD. This research project will utilize multimodal MRI data from the largest existing PTSD dataset from the ENIGMA-PTSD working group (N~3000). The results of the proposed research will be vital to aid in finding neural biomarkers of PTSD and better predict different treatment outcomes through different biotype targets. 

Acceptance and Mindfulness Based Exposure Therapy for Survivors of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (IRB #8017)

Principal Investigators: Maja Bergman, M.S & Yuval Neria, PhD

Overview of the Study:

While several well-studied, validated treatments for PTSD exist, to date, there is no evidence-based treatment for PTSD in cardiac arrest survivors. This pilot trial seeks to examine a new behavioral treatment for survivors of sudden cardiac arrest with clinically elevated symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Acceptance and Mindfulness-Based Exposure Therapy (AMBET) is an intervention that targets increased discriminatory perception through mindful interoceptive attention and adaptive threat responding. The specific aims of this study are to: (1) develop an acceptable protocol for an AMBET intervention for survivors of sudden cardiac arrest with elevated PTSD symptoms (2) examine its safety and feasibility in a small sample of 14 patients (3) investigate acceptability and feasibility of the measurements including physical activity and medication adherence monitoring devices. To assess whether patients' physical activity are improved over the course of treatment, participants will be provided with a wearable device (Fitbit wristband).

Gaze-Contingent Music Reward Procedure In Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (IRB#7960)

Principal Investigators: Amit Lazarov, PhD & Yuval Neria, PhD

Overview of the Study:

This study is a double-blind trial that seeks to further examine a recently developed eye-tracking-based, gaze-contingent music reward therapy (GC-MRT) in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that appeared highly efficacious in a prior study.

The Neural Signature of Trauma (IRB #7136)

*No Longer Recruiting Participants

Principal Investigator: Yuval Neria, PhD

Overview of the Study:

People exposed to trauma are at high risk for a range of trauma-related psychopathology. Over one third of exposed individuals are likely to develop significant and disabling psychopathology including: posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), depression and functional impairment. Fear overgeneralization, a difficulty discriminating between safe and dangerous situations, is key among trauma survivors. This ongoing 4-year NIMH-funded study, starting in 2015, proposes to: a) identify the neural signature (a specific pattern of brain activation) of fear overgeneralization by using innovative brain imaging methods (fMRI); and b) examine the use of the identified neural signature to predictfunctional impairment and symptom severity across a number of disorders.

This is not a treatment study. If you qualify to participate, you will be asked to come in to undergo fMRI brain scanning.

The Neural Correlates of Location-Specific Fear Learning in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (IRB#7469)

*No Longer Recruiting Participants 

Principal Investigator: Benjamin Suarez-Jimenez, PhD

Overview of the Study:

Learning about threat is a necessary survival tool when used in appropriate situations. The purpose of this study is to understand better how the brain learns about threat within an environment. For this study, we use a virtual reality game while inside an fMRI machine. The study is conducted on a one-day visit of approximately 2 hours.

Visual Attention in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (IRB#7464)

*No Longer Recruiting Participants

Principal Investigator: Amit Lazarov, PhD

Overview of the Study:

Emerging research has demonstrated a relationship between visual attention patterns and anxiety disorders, including PTSD. This study is designed to examine these visual attention patterns using eye-tracking – A simple device that monitors eye-movements. The study included two sessions conducted approximately 1 week apart, each no longer than 1 hour. In both sessions, you will perform a simple computer task while eye-data will be recorded. Session 1 can be conducted inside an MRI or without scanning. Session 2 has no MRI testing.

Attention-Bias Modification Treatment Study for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (IRB#6688)

*No Longer Recruiting Participants

Principal Investigator: Yuval Neria, PhD

Overview of the Study:

Emerging research has demonstrated a relationship between biased attention to threat and the psychological and physiological symptoms of anxiety disorders. Recent findings demonstrate significant associations between attention-bias and stress vulnerability. Attention-bias relates to how people focus their attention; research shows that people with high levels of anxiety tend to focus on negative information in their environment. This work has motivated the development of a novel therapy, attention-bias modification treatment (ABMT). ABMT is designed to modify patients’ threat bias, i.e., change their attentional habits, with the use of a computer program. The present study is a double blind trial that seeks to examine how well ABMT works for individuals with PTSD. Participants with PTSD and attention bias towards or away from threat (documented by the dot probe task) will undergo a 4-week (8-sessions) course of ABMT or an inactive Comparison Training Program (CTP). Attention-bias will be measured before and after treatment.