The U.S. Army has awarded a three-year, $2.7 million grant for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) research to Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI). The
Molecular Neurology Program directed by Dr. Michael Harrington, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Program directed by Dr. Brian Ross, and the Magnetoencephalography (MEG) Laboratory, will collaborate on this research project.
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Huntington Hospital’s Emergency Medicine Dept. will participate with HMRI in this important study that was slated to start in May. Capt. Warren Merrifield of Walter Reed will play a key role in the project as a principal investigator. Prior to his career with the U.S. Army, Merrifield was an MEG investigator at HMRI. Dr. Robert Goldweber will serve as investigator on behalf of Huntington Hospital.
Definitive diagnosis of mTBI and development of effective treatments for combat-related mTBI are of growing interest to the military. Labeled the “signature injury” of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, many of the mTBIs are the result of exposure to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). These blast-related injuries usually involve being struck by a blunt object, or injury from the subsequent fall or motor vehicle crash.
Since there is little clinical difference between blast- and impact-induced mTBI, the design of the study will focus on impact-related injuries immediately after the event. The study will involve 200 civilian volunteers selected through the Emergency Medicine Dept. of Huntington Hospital following treatment for mTBI, as well as non-head injuries as a control group.
The research study will gather data to understand how the brain functions after a mTBI. Assessments in the study will include anatomical and functional brain-mapping techniques, neurocognitive performance (computer-based tests), balance testing and levels of biomarkers (blood protein levels).
The incidence of mTBI in the private sector has gained more attention in recent years. The National Football League, National Hockey League and other sports organizations are in need of better neurocognitive protocols to assess athletes. Scientists with HMRI anticipate that data gathered from this research will benefit not only military medicine, but provide new medical models in sports medicine and other mTBI accidents, including falls among older people.