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Standard vs. enhanced reconsolidation therapy for public safety personnel: A pilot study

Keywords: Mental Health, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Treatment

Title of Research

Standard vs. enhanced reconsolidation therapy for public safety personnel: A pilot study


Public safety personnel (PSP) are at high risk of developing work-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous research shows that the drug Propranolol blocks the brain from retrieving memories in response to a memory trigger. The result of this block is a reduction in symptoms of PTSD. However, this treatment has yet to be tested in PSP. The goal of the current study is to replicate the research with propranolol in PSP participants.

Standard reconsolidation therapy involves recalling trauma over a period of time (in this case, once a week for six weeks), while using Propranolol. New research, however, points to the treatment being less effective if traumatic memory is recalled in perfectly identical conditions. As a result of this newer research, the location of the recall will be manipulated in an intentional and systemized manner (creating a mismatched experience) to determine its effect on an already effective therapy.

Participants in the study will be required to have: a medical visit, a pre-treatment symptom assessment, six brief (10–25 min) treatment visits on a once-a-week basis, a post-treatment symptom assessment, and a six-month follow-up.

Reconsolidation therapy has already proven effective in other population groups who’ve experienced trauma.  Researching it in PSP with the added dimension of the mismatched experience could be a promising new intervention for PSP.

When to expect results

The researchers will be presenting the results of their pilot study at the end-of-grant symposium.

Research team

Dr. Alain Brunet (Associate Professor at McGill University and Researcher at the Douglas Research Centre) and Travis Heritage

Papers resulting from the research

Bisson Desrochers, A., Rouleau, I., Angehrn, A., Vasiliadis, H.M., Saumier, D. & Brunet, A. (2021). Trauma on duty: cognitive functioning in police officers with and without posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12.

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