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Making the Invisible Wounds of War Visible

December 26, 2014
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Making the Invisible Wounds of War Visible
Members of the military exposed to war/combat and other groups at high risk for trauma exposure are at risk for developing PTSD. Chris Hondros/Getty Images
New techniques hold promise for the study of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

How do you treat an illness that you can’t see?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 11 percent of soldiers who served in Afghanistan and 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq war come home with PTSD. This ailment, which some refer to as an invisible war wound, has been linked to grave problems, including veteran homelessness and suicide. But now, testing is underway using new technologies that just might enable doctors to see the impact of both PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.

In San Diego, the Veterans Research Alliance raised $30,000 to fund a study by the V.A. using the magnetic encephalograph and high-definition fiber tractograph (two devices that allow researchers to view and record electromagnetic waves in the brain), something that has never before been possible.

Gery Schulteis of VA Healthcare Systems tells ABC 10 News, “With a traumatic brain injury, there may be gaps in the neurological connections in the brain. These devices may be able to detect that and in turn help lead to new treatments.”

Steve Lewandowski of Veterans Research Alliance adds, “Before, people were calling this an invisible injury. After this moment, it will no longer be invisible.”

The study is starting small, involving 10 special warfare veterans. Schulteis says, “We’re still going to be a ways away from having a new treatment, but hopefully this will be the gateway to a much larger study.”

With PTSD afflicting 7.7 million American adults, according to the National Institutes of Health, any breakthrough in its treatment would be welcome.

MORE: Meet the Marine Turned Doctor Helping Veterans Overcome PTSD

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