Two Yale Department of Psychiatry scientists have been awarded a federal research grant to study the effects of the drugs MDMA and methylone as possible treatments for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Alfred Kaye, MD, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, and Christopher Pittenger, MD, PhD, Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, are principal investigator and senior partner investigator, respectively, on the three-year, $1 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Their preclinical research will seek to better understand how MDMA and methylone affect the brains of veterans with PTSD, a debilitating disorder which affects about 8 percent of Americans.
MDMA and methylone are members of a class of drugs called entactogens, but researchers don’t know enough about the neurobiological mechanisms by which they may enhance learning to improve PTSD symptoms.
Kaye, Pittenger, and their research team will combine advanced microscopy and behavioral techniques that span between the whole brain and the synapse to understand how these drugs may affect learning. By identifying how entactogens change the dynamics of learning in the living brain, the researchers hope to gain insight into the development of new treatments for PTSD.
“MDMA has recently had a successful Phase 3 clinical trial in augmenting PTSD psychotherapy,” Kaye said. “It's critical that we conduct rigorous studies to understand how these drugs influence the process of neural plasticity.”
Kaye’s work on the development of new PTSD treatments is supported by the VA National Center for PTSD, Clinical Neurosciences Division, and the Connecticut Mental Health Center. Pittenger co-directs the Yale Program for Psychedelic Sciences, which seeks to advance novel drug treatments for psychiatric disorders.