Iraq war veteran suffering from Stress Disorder (PTSD) Robert Wake of Malden, Missouri thinks during a counseling session at the VA Medical Center in St Louis, Missouri, Aug. 10, 2009. Getty Images/Chris Hondros

A study recently found that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be combated by effectively letting patients "hear" their own brainwaves. The study, which was conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, was published in the journal Military Medical Research.

Researchers used a technology called high-resolution, relational, resonance-based, electroencephalic mirroring (HIRREM) for the study that could help reduce symptoms of the disorder. Symptoms of PTSD include depression, insomnia, flashbacks, and emotional distress, which can over time disrupt a person's everyday life.

"Ongoing symptoms of post-traumatic stress, whether clinically diagnosed or not, are a pervasive problem in the military," Charles H. Tegeler, principal investigator on the study said. "Medications are often used to help control specific symptoms, but can produce side effects. Other treatments may not be well tolerated, and few show a benefit for the associated sleep disturbance. Additional noninvasive, non-drug therapies are needed."

The HIRREM system works by taking readings of the electrical signals in a patient's brain through sensors placed on their scalp and feeding these frequencies into a computer. Algorithms then turn those readings into auditory frequencies and play them back in close to real-time, letting patients literally hear their own brain activity.

According to the study, when patients hear their own brainwave, they quickly make the connection that helps them settle down into a balanced and quiet pattern. As a result, that resets the stress response patterns and helps fight the symptoms of PTSD.

Eighteen people, who currently or previously served in the military and had experienced symptoms of PTSD for between one and 25 years, were part of the research. Over 12 days, these patients received on average about 20 HIRREM sessions each, with symptoms recorded both before and after. The team also took heart rate and blood pressure readings, and followed up with the patients after one, three and six months.

"We observed reductions in post-traumatic symptoms, including insomnia, depressive mood and anxiety that were durable through six months after the use of HIRREM, but additional research is needed to confirm these initial findings," Tegeler said. "This study is also the first to report improvement in heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity – physiological responses to stress – after the use of an intervention for service members or veterans with ongoing symptoms of post-traumatic stress."

The National Center for PTSD estimates 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. population develops PTSD at some point in their lives. The center predicts about 8 million adults will have PTSD during a given year. About 10 percent women as compared to 4 percent men develop PTSD.

“PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness,” the website says. “A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will develop PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, if you were directly exposed to the trauma or injured, you are more likely to develop PTSD.”

Some other events that could cause PTSD are, serious road accidents; violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery; prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect; witnessing violent deaths; military combat; being held hostage; terrorist attacks; natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis.

While researchers associated with the latest study encouraged the findings, they also mentioned that the study has its limitations and further tests could shed more light.