RTI International Joins Effort to Study Traumatic Brain Injuries, Concussions in Military Personnel, Veterans

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. - As part of a federal initiative to better understand traumatic brain injuries suffered by the nation’s military service members and veterans, researchers at RTI International will join a consortium led by Virginia Commonwealth University to better understand the long-term effects of chronic mild brain injuries, or concussions.

The $62.2 million initiative, funded by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, will examine combat-related mild traumatic brain injury and the issues surrounding changes in the brain as a result of those injuries, including molecular changes and the potential for neurodegeneration.

As part of the collaboration, researchers at RTI will receive a portion of the initiative funding to manage the operations and data management functions for the teams at the various research sites throughout the country. RTI researchers will also conduct biostatistical design and data analysis for the consortium and coordinate the biostatistical activities conducted at the research sites.

“This award represents a major step forward in the research on and treatment of long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injuries,” said Rick Williams, Ph.D., principal investigator at RTI and associate consortium director. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of concussions in veterans of recent wars, as well as in athletes, the long-term effects of which we need to better understand for improved prevention and treatment.”

The award is described as a key component of the Obama administration’s National Research Action Plan to help military personnel and their families. It is one of two federally funded initiatives totaling $107 million from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which were announced by the President at a recent speech to the Disabled American Veterans.

Although the consortium will primarily focus on service members and veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will include studies of veterans of prior wars, such as Korea or Vietnam, and potentially, victims of car accidents, sports injuries and falls.

The multidisciplinary effort aims to identify those most at risk for physical and mental health consequences after experiencing multiple mild traumatic brain injuries. The consortium will also examine better treatment options and the long-term prognosis for patients and their caregivers.

In addition to researchers from RTI and VCU, the consortium includes collaborators from seven veteran’s hospitals, 10 universities and six active-duty military treatment facilities. Additionally, the team will collaborate with other universities, sports leagues, and pharmaceutical and medical imaging firms.

On the whole, the consortium is anticipated to function for five years, but could continue for additional years of follow-up to determine the long-term consequences of mild traumatic brain injury. 

“New discoveries will help the Department of Veterans Affairs and the military health systems provide the best possible care and the right benefits for service members and veterans who have incurred these injuries,” Williams said.

 

Highlights

  • RTI International will join a consortium led by Virginia Commonwealth University to better understand the long-term effects of chronic mild brain injuries, or concussions
  • The initiative is funded by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and is a key component of the Obama administration’s National Research Action Plan to help military personnel and their families
  • RTI will manage the operations and data management functions for teams at various research sites throughout the country