Neuroimaging Study Investigates Blast-Induced Traumatic Brain Injury

Visual perception tasks are performed in the scanner.

Visual perception tasks performed in the MRI scanner.

Dr. Thomas Meitzler, scientist at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, and Dr. Joy Hirsch, professor at Columbia University and director of the Program for Imaging and Cognitive Sciences, join the Armed with Science podcast, Wed. Feb 3, 2010, at 2pm eastern. Listen live!

The number of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) casualties has increased tremendously, especially for Route Clearance Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers who are exposed to IED-associated blasts are often not aware of any resulting mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and return to duty without proper medical diagnosis and treatment.

The U.S. Army and Columbia University are collaborating on a project to develop a pre- and post-deployment functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) protocol that identifies a specific neural signature from blast-induced TBI in soldiers and provides vehicle intelligence. fMRI measures the changes in blood flow related to neural activity in the brain. Because fMRI’s are extremely sensitive to changes in the brain resulting from abnormal blood flow, fMRI research has been increasingly used for medical diagnosis of neurological diseases and as a guide treatment.

The proposed research will study fMRI scans to determine what areas of the brain are susceptible to damage, and measure the neural activity for TBI patients to determine the neural signatures related to IED-induced injury. The results of neuroimaging will measure the depth and extent of various levels of TBI, guide and monitor therapy, and prevent compounding injury by multiple blast exposures.

fMRI brain scans show which groups of neural circuits are being used for a specific tasks.Furthermore, blast intensity measurement research and fMRI studies can be linked together to measure the extent of TBI. The test data will be used to develop analytical math-based models to measure blast conditions and characterize injury. Using accelerometers and transducers, a sensor suite will be developed for military vehicle integration to supply vehicle intelligence.

The investigators are developing further test plans applying the new non-invasive techniques for study of human visual perception and neural processing of camouflage.

For more information, listen to the Armed with Science webcast #53 on Wednesday, February 3, 2010, at 2pm eastern.