Research and Anxiety Subspeciality Treatment Clinic collaborate on project

Department of Psychiatry Research Lead Brigette Vaughan, MSN, APRN-BC, NP

The Department of Psychiatry’s Research Division and Anxiety Subspeciality Treatment Clinic (AnxST) will be working together on a study to help adults deal with stress.

Department of Psychiatry Research Lead Brigette Vaughan, MSN, APRN-BC, NP, said the research team – headed by Lauren Edwards, MD – will start enrolling participants in late August or early September. The hope is to enroll thirty participants. Dr. Edwards’ team will include Vaughan, Justin Weeks, PhD, and Research Assistant Gage Walker, BA.

Vaughan said she’s excited to work with AnxST on the research study.

“It’s an exciting time. We have more people truly interested in getting involved in research projects,” Vaughan said.

The Department of Psychiatry is teaming with Theranova, a medical device developer who has done other research projects with UNMC. This study will use an electrical nerve stimulation device, which is worn by twice daily by participants. Vaughan said the device delivers an electrical stimulation to the participant’s peripheral nerves and may result in a reduction in anxiety. Theoretically, the mechanism of action would be similar to that of acupuncture. Studies have shown that the stimulation of certain nerves can enhance GABA activity in the brain. Studies of acupuncture of these nerves have demonstrated improvements in anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety disorder. However, this device allows people to do the treatment in their home, without requiring regular visits to an acupuncturist.

Dr. Edwards said adults struggling with generalized anxiety disorder will be recruited to participate. “They will have a clinical assessment to ensure they meet criteria for study participation,” she said. “The study will look at how user friendly the device is and how likely participants are to use it.  There are also exploratory outcomes of the effects on anxiety symptoms and medication usage.”

The study will be the first adult study the research division has begun since Research Division Director Dr. Soonjo Hwang, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, started in 2017.

Theranova has received a federal grant for the research.  The Department of Psychiatry is the only clinical site.

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