The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) was awarded a five-year grant by VA Office of Research and Development to establish a VA Rehabilitation Research Center of Excellence focusing on mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Center is led by Harvey Levin, PhD.
TBI is the signature wound of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated 20% of returning service members have sustained brain injury, most of them are mild and usually from exposure to blasts. A mild TBI involves brief loss of consciousness—or a feeling of being “dazed” or confused—and, in some cases, difficulty remembering details about the injury.
Some people who have experienced a TBI report problems with headaches, memory, attention and concentration, mood swings, and sleep. If the symptoms are due to brain injury, they are called “post-concussive” symptoms; however, these symptoms may also be related to other conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—in many cases, these symptoms result from a combination of TBI and PTSD. Most individuals with mild TBI recover fully; but some have longer lasting problems that can interfere with their ability to work or get along with their friends and family.
Researchers at the Neurorehabilitation: Neurons to Networks (N: N2N) Center of Excellence (COE) will evaluate the following service members and veterans to understand the severity and impact of TBI:
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
Operation New Dawn (OND)
This evaluation includes:
A history of events that may have resulted in TBI
Tests to determine memory and concentration problems
Psychological and emotional and physical health
Social and physical functioning
Quality of life
Some people may have a genetic makeup that protects them from damage of may make them more vulnerable to damage from a traumatic Brain Injury. Researchers will study the possible link between genetics (from blood work) and the effects of blast exposure during combat. Individuals who meet certain criteria at their visit may be asked to participate in studies that use a functional MRI (fMRI) to view their brain as they complete computer tasks. Since memory loss is often reported by participants with mild TBI, we will look for signs of damaged connections in the brain and perform simple memory tests. The fMRI will also be used to identify subtle decision-making and social interaction problems by using interactive games. TBI COE has several cores and pilot studies. The pilot studies aim to collect initial data and apply to receive independent funding.