Obama administration to research TBI, PTSD in new efforts

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The Obama administration announced two new collaborative efforts to research mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder in military servicemembers and veterans.

The Defense and Veterans Affairs department are establishing two research consortia with a $107 million investment over a 5-year period, the VA said in an Aug. 10 release.

The Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium, which will research mild TBI, will include Virginia Commonwealth University, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the Richmond VA Medical Center. The group plans to study the links between concussions, chronic mild TBI, neurodegeneration, and related conditions.

TBI, which has been called "the signature injury of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan," often results from the blasts of improvised explosive devices. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, researchers have found that TBI from those explosions differs from the the types that result from car accidents and athletic injuries--the basis of much of the scientific literature on the disease. That complicates efforts to treat servicemembers and veterans with TBI.

The administration's other new collaborative research effort, the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD, plans to research biomarkers--measurable, biological characteristics of disease--to help diagnose and treat PTSD. The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio will lead the consortium, which will include the San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Boston VA Medical Center.

The two consortia, to be established within 6 months, are the first phase of the administration's action plan (.pdf) for servicemember and veteran mental health, developed in response to an executive order that President Obama issued in August 2012.

The plan's objectives (.pdf) for the next 12 months include developing a more precise system to diagnose TBI and standardizing data on TBI and PTSD.

For the next 2-4 years, the plan's goals include confirming biomarkers for PTSD and TBI, identifying changes in brain circuitry after successful treatment, and exploring genetic risk factors.

For more:
- download the National Research Action Plan (.pdf)
- download the White House fact sheet for the plan (.pdf)
- go to the VA press release

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