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Averill receives research grant to study rapid acting treatments for suicidal ideations in veterans with PTSD

October 31, 2016

Lynnette A. Averill, PhD, associate research scientist in psychiatry at Yale, is one of eight recipients of a 2017 two-year Patterson Trust Mentored Clinical Research Award.

The grant will fund Averill’s research into rapid-acting treatments for suicidal ideation (SI) among veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An estimated 22 veterans die by suicide daily in the United States, according to her grant proposal. There are only two FDA-approved medications for PTSD, and both require weeks and, in some cases, months to take effect.

Research demonstrates that ketamine, an investigational antidepressant, may rapidly reduce symptoms of PTSD and SI. Research suggests that ketamine’s effects begin within two hours after dosing and peak approximately 24 hours after treatment.

The study will apply multidisciplinary tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and clinical and cognitive assessment to examine neurobiological mechanisms underlying SI in veterans with PTSD, according to the proposal.

In the study, veterans will complete a total of eight infusions as part of a larger ketamine trial for PTSD. They will be separated into three treatment groups – intravenous placebo, low dose and high dose – and will be assessed before their first treatment, and 24 hours after their first and last treatments.

“Considering the incredible burden and risk for those with severe PTSD symptoms and SI, fast tracked anti-suicidal effects are urgently needed,” Averill wrote in her proposal, titled, “Connectivity Networks Underlying Ketamine-Induced Improvements in Suicidal Ideation.”

The Robert E. Leet and Clara Guthrie Patterson Trust was created in 1980 to support research “relating to human diseases, their causes and relief.” John Krystal, MD, professor of neuroscience and chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry, is Averill’s mentor.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on October 31, 2016