Clinical Trial to Help Veterans With Traumatic Brain Injuires

Jun 22, 2011

Many veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered some type of brain injury. In 2009, the U.S Department of Defense found up to 90,000 troops had traumatic brain injuries. They require specialized care to regain such skills as concentration and memory. As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the VA hospital in Connecticut is one of several in the country that will participate in a clinical trial to help these veterans.

Recently, the Department of Defense awarded federal money to explore new ways to help veterans with traumatic brain injuries or TBIs. One of the grant recipients is Brain Plasticity Inc., a California based technology incubator. Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Henry Mahncke says the $2 million dollar grant will fund a trial of an internet program that's focused on cognitive training. Mahncke says it's a completely different approach to treating patients with TBIs.

"There are no good drugs that treat it, there are no good medical devices that treat it. There is a lot of wonderful one on one therapy from neuropsychologists  and clinical practitioners. But I think with the advances of neuroscience that have happened over the last thirty years and the deep insights we now have with how the brain can change itself with the right kind training. I really hope we are on the cusp of understanding all kinds of new ways to build training programs to help injured brains recover like this."

Mahncke says because its internet based, the program will have a wide reach helping vets at hospitals and when they return home.  Later this year the trial will enroll 132 veterans across the country at such facilities as Walter Reed Army Medical center and VA Connecticut. The veterans hospital here was chosen because of the work of VA doctor, Morris Bell, who Mahncke calls a pioneer in cognitive brain training software.

Mahncke says the trial is looking for all kinds of veterans.

"Soldiers and veterans who've had what the military calls blast exposure so they were in a humvee that got hit by an IED. So often after these injuries people can have symptoms like PTSD or depression and we want all mix of soldiers and veterans to come into this study."  

The other hospitals participating in the trial include VA Boston, VA Houston, and Tripler Army Medical Center. The trial will conclude in 2013

for WNPR, I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil