of Heights? Emory Researchers May Have The Solution
fear of heights (acrophobia) are being recruited for participation in
a new combination virtual reality/drug study beginning at the Emory
University School of Medicine.
Acrophobia has been shown
to be responsive to virtual reality exposure therapy (VRE) in which
patients are treated with a "virtual" elevator through a head-mounted
display. Now Barbara O. Rothbaum, Ph.D. and Kerry Ressler, M.D., Ph.D.,
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School
of Medicine, and colleagues at Virtually Better, Inc., are ready to
begin a new study that they believe may be even more effective, using
medication in conjunction with the VRE therapy.
In the randomized study the
medication, D-Cycloserine (DCS), will be given in pill form to one-third
of the participants in a 50 mg dose, and one-third in a 500 mg dose,
while one-third of the group will receive a placebo. DCS is an NMDA
glutamate receptor agonist that has been reported to have no significant
side effects in clinical studies, even when used in large doses. DCS
has been FDA approved for approximately 20 years, initially for the
treatment of tuberculosis. For the last ten years, however, it has been
used to help improve memory in Alzheimer's patients. Animal studies
of DCS have shown that fear decreases faster with the use of the medication.
"Because DCS has been shown
to decrease fear in animals, we believe the addition of this medication
to the VRE therapy could help produce reductions in fear and anxiety
quicker than VRE without augmentation," said Dr. Rothbaum. "We already
know that combination therapies have the highest degree of success for
patients who are being treated for depression. We think it is very likely
we will see the same kind of results for patients who are suffering
from certain anxiety disorders, such as phobias."
Participants in this randomized
study will receive medication, virtual reality sessions, and assessments
for free. For more information call 404-634-3400.
Dr. Rothbaum receives research
funding and is entitled to sales royalty from Virtually Better, Inc.,
which is developing products related to the research described in this
release. Dr. Rothbaum serves as consultant to and owns equity in Virtually
Better, Inc. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved
by Emory University in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.