Williamson, Lamb participate in VA Research Day

Friday, November 3rd the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center hosted Research Day as a part of an annual observance of National VA Research Week. This year’s theme, “Cutting-Edge Care Through Research,” celebrated the outstanding VA Research accomplishments, which have greatly improved Veterans’ lives and advanced medical care for all.

John B Williamson presents research at VA Research Day
Dr. Williamson presents his research at VA Research Day

During the event, John B Williamson, PhD, ABPP-CN, presented his research on “Sleep Disruption in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Intervention Development.” While, Damon Lamb, PhD, presented his research on “Brain Changes Underlying Emotional and Executive Alterations in Traumatic Brain Injury.”

For veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a significant factor that affects their quality of life. Sleep disruption is often associated with PTSD, and hyperarousal symptoms can worsen sleep problems. Although current treatment options are limited in terms of efficacy, a new non-invasive treatment option called transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) is being explored. Dr. Williamson will investigate the effectiveness of tVNS in improving sleep, reducing hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD, and identifying predictors of individual variations in response. The vagus nerve is targeted by tVNS, which affects brain structures that underlie core hyperarousal PTSD symptoms. Preliminary data suggests that tVNS can reduce symptoms and improve sleep quality. The data obtained from this study will bring this technology closer to becoming a viable treatment option.

Damon Lamb's research poster
Dr. Lamb’s poster displayed at the VA Research Day

The objective of Dr. Lamb’s study is to evaluate cognitive-emotional interactions in the context of brain injury and PTSD. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common in military Veterans and often causes chronic suffering including damaging social relationships, employment prospects, health, and happiness of those who experience it. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a frequent preceding injury and the relationship between injury characteristics associated with mTBI and emotional dysregulation disorders such as PTSD remains unclear, with mixed findings reported in the literature. mTBI can damage important connections between brain regions, especially regains critical for emotional experience. Veterans who have suffered one or more mTBIs are more likely to have other psychiatric conditions, and they also have worse health and social outcomes. Many of these poor outcomes are due to emotional dysregulation.

Research Day provides the opportunity for VA investigators to present discoveries and innovations and recognize Veterans for their participation in VA research studies. VA researchers have played key roles in developing devices and techniques that revolutionized health care and is a leader in many areas of research including AIDS, mental health, genomics, heart disease, spinal cord injury, and more.

This year’s event featured 14 speaker presentations and a research poster exhibit highlighting 16 VA investigators and their studies.