New Repository Helps Military Study Brain Wounds

New Repository Helps Military Study Brain Wounds

In a bid to understand more about the effects of military service and combat trauma on the brain, the Pentagon has created a brain bank in a Washington suburb. So far, only one sample has been collected, however, the Pentagon and officials are beginning to educate troops and their families about the process of brain donation after death.

As reported on USA Today, the brain repository is part of a new $70 million Center for the Study of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, a joint project of the Defense Department and National Institutes of Health.

A key goal of the project is understanding subtle changes to the brain, which can result in a number of disorders including dementia. A small study completed this year by Department of Veterans Affairs showed evidence of a progressive disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in four brains. Repetitive damage can cause destructive buildup of a tau protein in the brain, which becomes the evidence of CTE. However, CTE can currently only be diagnosed through brain autospy.

Concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries have long been a risk for troops in combat who repeatedly endure exposure to blasts from roadside bombs — known as improvised explosives devices, or IEDs. Studies estimate that several hundred thousand troops may have suffered concussions caused by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan

"We're particularly interested in the degree and extent to which CTE is a problem for the military," says Dan Perl, a neuropathologist who is lead investigator for research at the Rockville, Md., site.