February 13, 2019
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is involved in a new consortium focused on driving research and improving education and services related to health and wellness for members of the military, veterans and public safety personnel and their families.
The Heroes in Mind, Advocacy & Research Consortium (HiMARC), announced Feb. 13, also involves the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta, the Royal Canadian Legion Alberta - NWT Command, NAIT, the Canadian Armed Forces, Veteran Affairs Canada and Covenant Health.
Together, they have established several partnerships, initiatives and research projects, including one that uses virtual reality to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“More and more, literature shows stress has an important and significant impact on how people function and the contributions it makes to illness and recovery,” says Jim Raso, Senior Consultant, Research & Technology Development at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. “So we’re really interested to learn more about that.”
The Motion-Assisted, Multi-Modal Memory Desensitization and Reconsolidation research study is the largest of its kind in Canada.
Patients with PTSD undergo virtual reality therapy using the Computer-Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) system at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton.
Patients step into the CAREN unit and walk on a treadmill toward the stimulus —sounds and images that may remind them of events that brought on traumatic memories. A therapist is with them through this experience, guiding, directing and asking them a series of questions as the soldier or veteran confronts these memories. Study participants receive therapy once a week for six weeks.
“I think it’s just terrific when we are able to use technology to improve function and outcome in our patients,” says Raso.
Col. Rakesh Jetly, Chief Psychiatrist, Canadian Armed Forces, says he’s excited about how the research study is taking a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and treating PTSD.
“It’s very exciting to be working with a rehab hospital to come up with these innovative mental health solutions.”