Exploring Mechanisms of Action in MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD

Brief Summary

This study measures biological and psychological processes that might help researchers to better understand what is taking place during low or medium dose and full dose MDMA-assisted psychotherapy treatment in people with PTSD. Heart rate variability (HRV) will be measured up to three times; before and once or twice after receiving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Brain activity will be measured before and after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in response to personalized trauma-related scripts. Participants will complete a measure of self-compassion at baseline and two months after a final experimental treatment session. Therapy techniques observed during recorded treatment sessions will be classified using a standardized clinical measure.

Intervention / Treatment

  • Drug: Low or Medium dose MDMA
  • Drug: Full dose MDMA

Condition or Disease

  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


Study Design

Study type: Observational
Status: Completed
Study results: No Results Available
Age: 18 Years and older   (Adult, Older Adult)
Enrollment: 10 ()
Funded by: Other


Clinical Trial Dates

Start date: Jan 01, 2014
Primary Completion: Aug 03, 2015
Completion Date: Aug 03, 2015
Study First Posted: Apr 03, 2014
Results First Posted: Aug 30, 2020
Last Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Sponsors / Collaborators

Lead Sponsor: N/A
Responsible Party: N/A

PTSD is a complex psychiatric disease characterized by a deficit in fear extinction, hyperarousal, emotional numbing, and intrusive symptoms that cause the patient to persistently re-experience a traumatic event over a period longer than a month. PTSD is considered chronic when symptoms are present for at least six months. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is an innovative experimental mode of treatment that combines psychotherapeutic techniques with the administration of MDMA. It may amplify certain aspects of psychotherapy, as the pharmacological action of MDMA is thought to act as an adjunct to psychotherapy. With positive results in two studies and ongoing Phase 2 clinical studies it is important to further characterize the psychotherapeutic processes that occur during treatment sessions conducted according to the manualized method of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Changes in physiological status or brain activity that are associated with improvement or recovery in people with chronic PTSD may offer a means of assessing treatment response that relies less on self-report. This may be particularly important in studies with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy where blinding is difficult due to the psychoactive nature of the investigational product. This study is also interested in identifying and categorizing psychotherapeutic processes taking place during MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. The sub-study will also examine elements of the experience with a self-report measure of self-compassion.

This exploratory sub-study will identify psychotherapeutic processes occurring during MDMA- assisted psychotherapy in people with chronic PTSD and assess the feasibility of exploring physiological correlates of clinical outcomes in subjects enrolled in the ongoing clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, NCT #: NCT01211405. The sub-study will be conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Smith College and the New School for Social Research.

To support the clinical outcomes measured by CAPS from the MP-8 study, the sponsor is interested in correlations of outcomes with treatment-related changes in potential biological markers of PTSD, measured by HRV and fMRI. Brain activity while listening to neutral and personalized trauma-related scripts will take place at baseline and after experimental MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with low or medium or full dose MDMA. The fMRI scan will be followed by a Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) scan. After each scanning session, pulse measurements will be extracted as a digital data file from which HRV will be calculated. FMRI scans and HRV measurements will occur at baseline for participants in all conditions, one month after the second experimental session and again after a final experimental session for participants in the low or medium dose condition, and two months after the final experimental session for participants in the full dose condition. Participants will complete the Self-Compassion Scale, a self-report measure of self-compassion at Baseline and after the final MDMA-assisted psychotherapy session. Psychotherapeutic processes will be assessed via observing psychotherapy and sorting a set of 100 therapy-related items as a means of describing the interactions. Trained coders will observe at least one pre-drug psychotherapy session, one experimental (drug-assisted psychotherapy) session and one post-drug psychotherapy session.

Eligibility Criteria

Sex: All
Minimum Age: 18

More Details

NCT Number: NCT02102802
Other IDs: MP8-S1
Study URL: https://ClinicalTrials.gov/show/NCT02102802
Last updated: Jun 17, 2022