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Research Studies

You may be eligible for one or more of the studies listed below. 

To hear more about our studies or to pparticipate in research, please call: 
Danielle D. (858) 552- 8585 x2509

Current Studies

Cognitive Training as a Novel Neuroscience-Based Treatment for PTSD

This study aims to evaluate the effect of a computer-based, cognitive training intervention program in veterans with a history of interpersonal trauma. The treatment consists of 16 treatment sessions that aim to affect the emotional and cognitive symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Through fMRI, the neural regions involved in neutral and affective cognitive control functioning will be examined before and after the administration of a full cognitive training intervention program. Associations between activation in neural regions and symptom reduction will be examined. This study hopes to provide critical information about the efficacy of cognitive training program for Veterans with PTSD, while simultaneously informing neurobiological and cognitive models of the disorder that will allow for more precise treatment development and personalization.

Neuromarkers of Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

This study partners with a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial by Dr. Sonya Norman examining Prolonged Exposure therapy and the medication topiramate for the treatment of Veterans with comorbid PTSD and AUD. Subjects will complete one of two treatment conditions: 1) Prolonged Exposure therapy with topiramate and 2) Prolonged Exposure therapy with a placebo. Subjects will undergo fMRI scans pre- and post-treatment in order to inspect the dynamic model of fear processing and alcohol cue-reactivity as well as the effects of treatment allocation on the neural networks involved.

Non-Invasive Vagal Nerve Stimulation to Improve Functional Outcomes in Veterans With Alcohol Use Disorder

The aim of this study is to establish feasibility and acceptability of using noninvasive vagal nerve stimulation (nVNS), which is a low-risk form of neuromodulation, as a treatment option for alcohol use disorder. The study will include 16 participants, who will be randomly assigned to receive either nVNS or placebo stimulation prior to performing a well-validated functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) task. Subjects will then self-administer nVNS/sham at home twice a day for 7 days and return for a follow-up visit, during which all study components will be repeated.

Neural Correlates of Trauma Informed Guilt Reduction (TrIGR) Therapy in Veterans

The long-term goal of this research is to use neuroimaging tools to advance our ability to provide optimized, targeted interventions that support improved outcomes for veterans with trauma-related guilt. In this study, we aim to measure brain response to cognitive and affective tasks before and after active treatment for posttraumatic guilt. The treatment condition will receive Trauma Related Guilt Reduction therapy (TrIGR) through a clinical trial by Dr. Sonya Norman. Our goal is to delineate a neural profile of treatment responsiveness to TrIGR relative to supportive care and to determine which symptom clusters relate best to these changes.

Cognitive training to reduce negative thinking in depression, anxiety, and PTSD

This study aims to evaluate whether a cognitive training treatment program can improve thinking skills and reduce negative thoughts like worry and rumination. The treatment occurs twice weekly using a computer-administered program. Before and after treatment, participants will complete a brain scan and tasks that assess skills like memory and attention.

To participate in this study please call Nathalie at (858)534-2148 or email

Neurocognitive Training to Boost Clinical Outcomes in Anhedonic Patients

This study aims to learn about the effects of a computer-based protocol designed to improve positive emotions, behaviors, and associated brain systems in individuals with depression and anxiety. The results of this study may help develop procedures to reduce symptoms of depression and improve positive emotions and well-being. We are seeking volunteers who experience low mood and feelings of depression or anxiety. This is a one-time visit study during which participants will complete a brain scan, questionnaires, and computer tasks.

To participate in this study please contact Danielle at the number listed above or

Studies No Longer Open to Recruitment

Neural Modeling of Decision-Making for Predicting Clinical Outcomes

This research aims to provide a precise mechanistic framework for understanding and objectively identifying clinical risk profiles in trauma-exposed Veterans, and for developing more targeted treatments aimed at preventing the development of depression and co-occurring substance abuse in this population. Participants will complete a full clinical assessment and fMRI scan while performing cognitive tasks. Functional neuroimaging will be used to identify neurocognitive processes that are affected by post-traumatic depressive symptoms and to test the usefulness of such neural markers in predicting response to a cognitive behavioral treatment. We will use computational modeling applied to functional neuroimaging data to quantify the neural correlates of reward processing and associated decision-making and to assess how these relate to psychopathology and clinical outcomes.

Anti-Depressant Response in Neurobiologically Defined Psychiatric Veteran Group

The aim of this study is to identify neurobiological markers that can predict the success of pharmacological treatment outcomes in individuals with PTSD and co-morbid depression and anxiety disorders. In particular, subjects will be clustered into groups based on brain imaging, neurobiology, physiology, genetic markers, and demographics rather than symptoms. These clusters will serve as predictors for SSRI treatment outcome. Participants will be taking the medication Sertraline (Zoloft) as part of their standard course of care for depression, anxiety, or PTSD symptoms.

The Effect of Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation in Healthy and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Subjects on Brain Function as Measured by fMRI

The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of placebo versus vagus nerve stimulation on brain activity and symptomology in Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Neuroimaging Study in OIF/OEF Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), and Depression

The aim of this study is to collect longitudinal brain imaging data on those who acquired PTSD following combat exposure and contrast it to that of subjects who did not acquire PTSD after similar combat events. Specifically, this study is focused on separating those neural substrates that are pertinent to PTSD from those better characterized by common comorbidities, such as depression and mild traumatic brain injury. In addition, we aim to understand the predictors of dynamic change in PTSD in the context of combat stress and examine the validity of cross-sectional neural biomarkers.

Integrated Alcohol Use and PTSD Treatment Study with fMRI for OIF/OEF Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alcoholism

This study uses fMRI to measure brain response to exposure-based or skills-based therapy in veterans with combat-related PTSD and alcoholism. Participants are randomly assigned to a treatment group and will receive an fMRI scan before and after treatment.

Mantram Repetition & Present-Centered Therapy with fMRI for Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brian Injury

This study is examining the efficacy of Mantram Repetition and Present-Centered Therapy in reducing PTSD symptoms among military veterans. Participants are randomly assigned to a treatment group and will receive an fMRI scan before and after treatment.

CogSmart Treatment Study with fMRI

This study uses fMRI to measure brain response to cognitive rehabilitation treatment in OIF/OEF veterans with cognitive disorder. Participants will undergo treatment for cognitive disorder and receive a brain scan both before and after treatment.