Thursday, June 2, 2011

New CDMRP Study Shows Brain Blast Injuries Differ from Concussions, May be New Form of Disease

( -- A new study by Dr. Christine McDonald and colleagues funded by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has found that brain injuries from blasts differ from athletic and other concussions, are more extensive and subtle than previously known, and may even constitute an entirely new disease.

While blast injuries are the “signature” wound of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like the recognition of PTSD after the Vietnam War, new recognition of brain blast injuries has the potential to explain some military service members’ unexplained illnesses going back as far back in history as high explosives have existed.

According to an article by Gregg Zaroya -- a respected military writer with USA Today (itself a world leader in reporting military and veterans news often overlooked by other publications) -- the McDonald study determined the following:

Mild brain injuries from an explosion  appear to be different and more extensive than mild brain injuries that result from playing sports.

The study looked specifically at how blasts damage the brain's wiring. Researchers found neural pathways disrupted in areas of the brain that are not affected in civilian cases of mild brain injury — such as from sports injuries or car accidents.

These were areas of the brain regulating emotions and impulsive behavior and governing coordination, movement, organization and planning, says David Brody, a neurologist who co-authored the study.

The axonal brain injuries  -- damage at the level of the basic nerve cell building block of the brain and nervous system -- were not visible using standard CT scans.  However, using research-oriented DTI scanning, the damage at the level of the axons was clearly visible and confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis.

According to a New York Times article about the study by health writer Denise Grady:

This study “may help explain why some military personnel exposed to blasts have symptoms of brain injury even though their CT and M.R.I. scans look normal.”

The study is yet another important success for the veteran-acclaimed Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which also funds treatment studies for Gulf War Illness (GWI) through annual lobbying efforts of veterans’ advocates with Congress, which must provide funding each year for the various CDMRP programs.

--Anthony Hardie, Madison, Wis.

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