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Scans Show Changes in Some Soldiers With Mild Brain Injuries

TUESDAY, Nov. 29, 2016 -- Disruption of certain brain circuits may be related to depression in soldiers with brain injuries, researchers report.

The researchers conducted brain scans on 130 male soldiers who suffered mild traumatic brain injury and a control group of 52 men without brain trauma.

The scans revealed that brain-injured soldiers with moderate to severe depression had disruptions in the circuits that connect brain regions that play important roles in thinking and emotional control.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting, in Chicago.

"We can link these connectivity changes in the brain to poor top-down emotional processing and greater maladaptive rumination, or worrying, in symptomatic depressed soldiers after [mild traumatic brain injury]," study author Ping-Hong Yeh said in a RSNA news release. Yeh is a physicist at the U.S. National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

"Though the results of this study were not applied directly to patient care, the neuroimaging changes we found might be incorporated into treatment plans for personalized medicine in the future," Yeh said.

Nearly 353,000 U.S. service members worldwide have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury since 2000, and most of those have been mild, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are becoming common in military personnel with brain injuries.

"With the increased survival of soldiers due to improvements in body armor and advanced medical care, there has been an increase in the number of soldiers surviving major trauma. Consequently, a large number of soldiers are returning from war with [mild traumatic brain injury]," Yeh said.

"This is an ongoing problem facing a large number of warriors in current areas of conflict, and it is likely to be a persistent problem for the foreseeable future," he said.

Until published in a peer-reviewed journal, research presented at meetings is considered preliminary.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on traumatic brain injury.

Posted: November 2016


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