Battling PTSD and TBI

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Army Photo / Spc. Alex Kirk Amen

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division changing watch shifts at dawn Aug. 30 in Mulakala, in Afghanistan’s Ghazi province.

Somehow seems fitting on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 to note that the Pentagon has just announced it is funneling $100 million into a pair of new efforts to try to find out how better to fight the scourge of post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury triggered by the post-9/11 wars.

“PTSD and mTBI are two of the most devastating injuries suffered by our warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Dr. Terry Rauch, Program Director for Defense Medical Research and Development within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Department of Defense. “Identifying better treatments for those impacted is critical.”

The “consortia,” as the Pentagon calls the two initiatives, are the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP) and the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC). They will be managed jointly by the Department of Veterans Affairs and, on behalf of the Defense Department, by what the Pentagon calls its Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (military mathematical truth: the more overhead dedicated to an effort, the less oversight it gets).

— For PTSD, CAP “will study potential indicators of the trauma, as well as prevention strategies, possible interventions, and improved treatments. Biomarker-based researched will be a key factor for CAP’s studies,” the CDMRP says. PTSD afflicts some troops after combat tours, and causes anxiety, depression and other mental ills.

— For mTBI, CENC will try “to establish an understanding of the aftereffects of an mTBI. Potential comorbidities also will be studied; that is, conditions that are associated with and worsen because of a neurotrauma,” the CDMRP says. TBI is a physical wound – a concussion — usually suffered by troops near the shock waves of an improvised explosive device. It can bruise the brain and cause mood changes, fatigue, and sleeping more – or less – than usual.

The two conditions are often seen in the same person, exponentially compounding their impacts.

The Frederick News-Post wrote about the consortia’s creation over the weekend because the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs is (are?) run from Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Md. (to see what the CDMRP does, click here).

It quoted Fort Detrick’s director of the Combat Casualty Care Research Program (overhead alert!) on this latest tranche of TBI funding, noting that it isn’t the first try the Pentagon has made to ease troops’ TBI wounds:

The Defense Department has spent more than $700 million on about 500 studies of TBI since 2007…