Computer-assisted attention training, developed at Tel Aviv University in conjunction with the IDF medical corps, will soon be integrated into the advanced training of all combat soldiers to help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A study conducted among IDF soldiers who fought in Operation Protective Edge found that those who had undergone the training were three times less likely to suffer from PTSD symptoms than those who had not.
The study was led by Prof. Yair Bar-Haim and Dr. Ilan Wald of the University of Tel Aviv. The findings were published on Tuesday in the journal Psychological Medicine.
“This approach is entirely different from existing treatments,” said Dr. Bar Haim. “Our approach is bottom-up. Our targets are basic, attention-level cognitive processes. We try to normalize and regulate this behavioral system by providing very simple computer tasks, retraining the neural network to better balance threat vigilance and avoidance.”
Data gathering on IDF soldiers who received the treatment began in 2012, when 800 combat soldiers underwent training. In the summer of 2014, the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge. Soldiers who underwent the training and those who did not were exposed to 50 days of combat. Four months later, they were examined by Dr. Bar-Haim’s team.
“Of those who did not have the computer-assisted attention training, 7.8 suffered from PTSD symptoms, whereas only 2.6 percent of those who had undergone the training experienced PTSD symptoms,” he said. In light of the results, the IDF decided to adopted the method for its combat soldiers during their training period.