Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Phoenix Australia Traumatic Stress Clinic has temporarily suspended face-to-face appointments. Presently, recruitment for the BDNF trial is open for treatment delivered via videoconferencing (available to Victoria residents only). We welcome expressions of interest for face-to-face treatment in the meantime.


This trial is investigating whether aerobic exercise, in combination with psychological treatment, can improve PTSD symptoms.

Prolonged exposure (PE) therapy is the current gold standard treatment for PTSD. The BDNF trial is investigating whether treatment outcomes with PE can be improved by increasing levels of a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through aerobic exercise. Eligible participants would receive treatment using PE at no cost, combined with either aerobic exercise or gentle stretching. To learn more about what to expect during PE, download this simple guide.

Register interest

Am I eligible for the BDNF trial?

This study is suitable for participants who:*

  • Are over the age of 18.
  • Have PTSD following a traumatic event.
  • Currently live in Victoria.
  • Have access to equipment for videoconferencing (i.e. computer and internet) for telehealth.
  • Are able to attend weekly sessions.
  • Have good English comprehension.
  • Are able to safely engage in aerobic exercise (that is, do not have a health condition such as heart, lung or muscle problems).


Unfortunately, this trial is not suitable for individuals who have been diagnosed with a current psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, or bipolar affective disorder or mania, or a severe drug or alcohol use disorder.


Furthermore, this trial is not suitable for people who are unable to guarantee their own current safety (i.e. have active suicidality, deliberate self-harm, or a current victim/survivor of family violence), or the safety of another (e.g., a perpetrator of violence).


What will the BDNF trial involve?

Participation involves:

  • An intake assessment to assess eligibility and presence of PTSD.
  • Random allocation into one of two treatment groups:
    • Ten weekly 90 minute sessions of PE and 20 minute sessions of exercise.
    • Ten weekly 90 minute sessions of PE and 20 minute sessions of gentle stretching.
  • Completing a number of online surveys and clinical interviews throughout the duration of the study.


Eligible participants will receive treatment at no cost.


Please note: Consent for the research team to communicate with participant’s GP is a requirement for entering into this trial. Participants are encouraged to share this website information with thier GP and other health professionals when expressing interest in this research.


For more information about the possible benefits and risks of participating in treatment at the Phoenix Australia Traumatic Stress Clinic please read our Plain Language Statement.


Download your guide to the step-by-step process of registering for the BDNF trial below.

Step-by-step process

How do I refer a client to the BDNF trial?

Referrers are welcome to contact us if they would like to refer a client.


For additional details on how referrers can support their clients access the BDNF trial at the Phoenix Australia Traumatic Stress Clinic, please see the attached Frequently Asked Questions document.


Who is conducting the BDNF trial?

This trial is being conducted by Professor Kim Felmingham from the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with the Phoenix Australia Traumatic Stress Clinic, an initiative of Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, the Australian national centre of excellence in posttraumatic mental health, affiliated with the University of Melbourne.


This research project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of The University of Melbourne (ID Number: 1954422.8).

If you would like to participate or find out more about the trial, please contact the Trial Intake Officer on 1800 514 905 or register your interest below.