Current Research Projects

Listed below is a description of our ongoing research projects. Some of these are actively recruiting participants and some are not. If you are interested in participating in one of our projects that are currently recruiting participants, click on the link below the respective project which will take you to a pre-screening survey that we will use to help determine your eligibility for the project.

Please note that none of our current studies provide monetary compensation for participation.

If you are interested in more information about one of the studies listed here and would like to speak with a researcher please call: 512-967-1074

 

Enhancing Exposure Therapy for PTSD 

Summary: This ongoing treatment study examines whether Exposure Therapy – a widely studied cognitive-behavioral treatment for PTSD – can be made even more effective by introducing new behavioral techniques derived from research in animals and humans that have demonstrated potential for modifying fear reactions to traumatic memories.

Status: Actively recruiting participants.

Link: ClinicalTrials.gov

 

Using Low-Level Lasers to Enhance Exposure Therapy for Anxiety  

Summary: This clinical trial is investigating whether applying low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to the forehead immediately following an exposure therapy session may serve as a temporary metabolic and cognitive enhancer, thus boosting the brain’s capacity to retain the new inhibitory learning that occurred during the therapy session, and thereby augment the efficacy of the therapy.

Status: Actively recruiting participants.

Link: ClinicalTrials.gov

 

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) for Enhancing Exposure Therapy for Pathological Fear

Summary: tDCS is among several neuro-stimulation techniques currently in development for clinical applications. tDCS produces durable, yet reversible shifts in cortical excitability by passing a weak electrical current through the scalp. Therapeutic effects have been reported for several neuropsychiatric conditions.  However, tDCS has not been tested as a treatment of anxiety- and fear-related disorders.  In this study, we are testing whether tDCS provides any additional benefit relative to placebo tDCS for enhancing the therapeutic effects of exposure therapy for several forms of specific fears.

Status: Actively recruiting participants.

Link: ClinicalTrials.gov

 

Effects of Safety Behaviors on Distress Tolerance: An Experimental Investigation

Summary: This is a randomized experimental trial which aims to test the effects of engaging in unnecessary safety behaviors on one’s capacity to tolerate distressing physical and emotional feelings. Currently, knowledge is lacking on how safety behaviors impact one’s capacity to tolerate physical and emotional distress. Since both distress tolerance and the use of safety behaviors may interfere with exposure therapy by influencing threat appraisal and interfering with threat disconfirmation processing, understanding safety behaviors on distress tolerance could lead to improvements in the effectiveness of anxiety disorder treatment.

Status: Actively recruiting participants.

 

Understanding Shame

Summary:  Shame is a painful emotion in which the self is negatively evaluated that is common across a variety of mental illnesses, including PTSD, social anxiety, and depression. Despite this, shame has been highly understudied, and it has been suggested that multiple types of shame exist. The aim of this research study is therefore to better understand different types of shame and factors that contribute to shame by asking participants to recall shameful experiences and share them with others.

Status: Will be actively recruiting in October 2018

 

Narrative Exposure Based Intervention for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Summary: This ongoing treatment study examines whether narrative based exposures for PTSD can be effectively conducted via the internet. Additionally, we are examining the effects of writing about a traumatic event versus speaking about a traumatic event. A secondary aim of this study is to examine how individuals with PTSD process information by examining eye movements during several tasks in the lab.

Status: Actively recruiting participants.

Link: ClinicalTrials.gov

 

— COMPLETED RESEARCH PROJECTS —

 

Enhancing Exposure Treatments for Acrophobia (Fear of Heights) 

Summary: This ongoing treatment study examines whether Exposure Therapy – the only form of effective treatment for specific phobias – can be enhanced through the use of behavioral augmentation strategies.  These strategies include fading unnecessary protective actions and engaging in fear-antagonistic actions during exposure to heights.  This study is a replication and extension of our prior published work, which demonstrated that use of such fear-antagonistic actions can enhance fear reduction and promote generalization of treatment gains to a new context (Wolitzky-Taylor & Telch, 2009).

Status: Closed (not actively recruiting).

Link: ClinicalTrials.gov

 

Using Nasal Testosterone Spray to Enhance Treatments of Social and Specific Phobias

Summary: Preliminary evidence suggests that testosterone levels are associated with decreased anxiety levels.  However, few human studies have examined the effects of administering testosterone on subsequent fear response.  This study attempts to determine whether a testosterone nasal spray has the ability to reduce anxiety during a variety of challenges, including public speaking, a spider approach task, and a motion-tracking behavioral avoidance paradigm.

Status: Closed (not actively recruiting).

Link: ClinicalTrials.gov

 

Spider Phobia Treatment Project

Summary: Spider phobia is a common specific phobia classified within the “animal subtype.” Exposure therapy has been shown to be the most effective treatment for specific phobias. Prior research in our laboratory suggests that having the phobic person perform opposite actions while undergoing therapy increases the success of treatment. An example of an opposite action for someone afraid of heights might be leaning over the railing of a high building with their hands held behind their back. This study will test the relative effectiveness of two types of opposite actions used for enhancing the effectiveness of exposure therapy for fear of spiders.

Status: Closed (Not actively recruiting).

 

Improving Computerized Treatments for Social Anxiety 

Summary: Numerous studies suggest that anxious individuals show biases that cause them to view their environment as overly threatening.  Computerized training known as cognitive bias modification (CBM) has shown considerable promise in its ability to alter these biases, but additional research is necessary to optimize the current treatment.  This study attempts to augment CBM to obtain a more permanent method for reducing symptoms of social anxiety.

Status: Closed (Not actively recruiting).

Link: ClinicalTrials.gov

 

360-Degree Video Virtual Reality Public Speaking Study

Summary: Virtual reality exposure for anxiety disorders is a rapidly emerging field. However, most use digitally generated environments. This study uses a virtually reality environment that has been generated using real footage. This study attempts to determine whether completing a public speaking task in a virtual reality environment with live footage will effectively distinguish those high or low in social anxiety.

Status: Closed (Not actively recruiting).

 

Attention, Learning, Memory, and Stress

Summary: Attention biases and fear conditioning have been separately evaluated in the context of PTSD. The current study uses several attention bias paradigms with eye tracking to examine the intersection of the attentional processes underpinning symptoms of PTSD and we explore how these processes change throughout fear conditioning.

Status: Closed (Not actively recruiting).

 

Re-consolidation Update and Compound Extinction in Enhancing Treatment for Arachnophobia and Ophidophobia

Summary: Fear retrieval and deepened extinction have been shown to boost the efficacy of fear attenuation in animal models of exposure therapy. This study provides an initial examination of whether these two strategies (alone, and in combination) enhance the efficacy of exposure therapy for fear of spiders or snakes.

Status: Closed (Not actively recruiting).

Link:  ClinicalTrials.gov

 

A Longitudinal Analysis of Changes in Trauma Narratives during Exposure Therapy for PTSD

Status: Closed (Not actively recruiting).

 

The Effects of Emotional Acceptance and Suppression upon Emotional Processing in Exposure Therapy for Claustrophobia

Summary: This completed project examined the effects of emotional acceptance and suppression of claustrophobic fear during exposure therapy.  Follow-up analyses are in progress and aim to test the effects of fear expectancies, fear activation, and fear prediction error on change in appraisals of threat (e.g., entrapment and suffocation concerns) across repeated trials of exposure to a claustrophobic chamber.

Status: Closed (Not actively recruiting).

 

A Prospective Risk Assessment of PTSD and Other Indices of Psychological Dysfunction Among Soldiers Deployed in Iraq

Summary: The Texas Combat PTSD Risk Project is a prospective proof-of-concept risk study in which soldiers with no prior war-zone deployments underwent a full day of pre-deployment risk assessments comprised of structured diagnostic interviews, psychological questionnaires, brain imaging, genetic, hormone, cognitive, and stress-challenge measures. During their deployment to Iraq, soldiers completed monthly web-based assessments of deployment-related stressors and PTSD, anxiety, and depression symptoms.  Previous reports from this project project have revealed markers of stress-reactivity across genetic (e.g., Disner et al., 2013; Telch et al., 2015), attentional (Beevers et al., 2011a), and behavioral systems (Telch et al., 2012) that predict subsequent relations between war-zone stressors and the emergence of stress-related psychopathology in-theater.  Current reports under review or in preparation extend these findings in demonstrating emotion regulation tendencies and hormone profiles that also confer risk for in-theater psychopathology in response to war-zone stressors.

Status: Project completed (Not actively recruiting).

 

Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Safety Behaviors on the Efficacy of Exposure Therapy

Summary: This study will provide a systematic review of the literature and meta-analytic statistics to evaluate the impact of safety behavior availability and use on the efficacy of exposure therapy.

Status: In progress.

 

Distress Tolerance Intervention

Summary: Distress tolerance (DT) is a potential risk factor for a variety of psychopathologies. However, no intervention studies specifically targeting the improvement of DT in non-clinical populations have been conducted. This study examines whether a novel intervention improves both behavioral and self-reported DT among non-clinical participants.

Status: Will being actively recruiting participants in September 2015