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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
This Issue: Care for Returning Service Members | Table of Contents: Winter 2016 |

In the News

Researchers pinpoint brain area vulnerable to blast damage


Troops with the 82<sup>nd</sup> Airborne Division prepare to sweep a road for improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan's Ghazni province in 2012. IEDs have been a common cause of blast injuries in U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. <em>(US Army photo)</em>
Troops with the 82nd Airborne Division prepare to sweep a road for improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan's Ghazni province in 2012. IEDs have been a common cause of blast injuries in U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. (US Army photo)

Airborne Division prepare to sweep a road for improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan's Ghazni province in 2012. IEDs have been a common cause of blast injuries in U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. (US Army photo)

The cerebellum, a brain structure important for integrating sensory information and movement, has emerged in both rodent blast models and brain scans of combat Veterans as an area particularly susceptible to blast damage.

This finding was reported by researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington, and was published in Science Translational Medicine on Jan. 13, 2016.

To mark the study's publication, Scientific American magazine interviewed three members of the research team, Drs. James Meabon, Elaine Peskind, and David Cook of VA Puget Sound and the University of Washington.

Cook explained that blast-induced TBI is more complex than injuring one's head in an automobile accident. The shock wave from explosive detonations "is essentially a shell of highly pressurized air...capable all by itself of killing you" even if the blast exposure doesn't necessarily knock you over.

Peskind called the study "a piece of a larger puzzle," and explained that the team is "try[ing] to find treatments to improve symptoms now and prevent neurodegeneration." She and her colleagues are working on other studies to treat PTSD linked to TBI and blast concussion and to treat comorbid symptoms such as alcohol abuse and dependence.

Meabon concluded: "Our findings give you a sense of the magnitude of the issue. These guys are going out there and coming back home and they're carrying with them this huge cumulative burden that continues to affect their daily lives."


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