June 2017

19th – 25th June

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury may be Associated with an Increased Susceptibility to Develop Parkinson’s Disease

Gardner et al. (2017) published in a paper in Neurology with results suggesting that mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in military veterans is associated with a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD). The authors identified those veterans within the Veterans Care Association (VCA) who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) diagnosis and from there identified factors that differed from those patients without TBI. Those with TBI, in comparison to those without, were younger, had a higher prevalence of comorbidities such as cerebrovascular disease and depression and were also significantly more likely to develop PD during follow-up. This was also the case for those with mTBI, specifically, indicating a need for methods to prevent post-TBI PD.

The paper can be accessed here.

Blast Exposure and Biomarkers for Retinal Injury

Modern military conflicts have seen an increase in the number of personnel exposed to blast waves. A new study in The American Journal of Pathology reports that blast exposure can result in long-term ocular damage even when brain changes are not detected. The authors write that indicators of such retinal injuries will enable early detection of individuals that are at risk of visual impairment. Laboratory mice were exposed to a simulated blast wave and their retinal tissues were later analysed. Several pathological changes were identified, although no detectable cognitive changes were observed. The mice retinas saw increases in inflammation and photoreceptor death, along with various other cellular changes. Interestingly, tau, a protein associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, was seen to accumulate in retinal neurons, opening up a new field of investigation for a more in-depth understanding of long-lasting retinal changes following blast exposure.

The paper can be accessed here.

12th – 18th June 2017

Gender and Deployment Stress

Experiencing stress during deployment may have detrimental consequences for veterans’ work and family life. Research by Smith et al. (2017), published in Clinical Psychological Science, suggests there may be differences between genders when it comes to deployment stress and self-reported well-being. The study took place at the VA Boston Healthcare System, where 522 male and female veterans were recruited. Following surveying, results showed that there were several indirect pathways linking deployment stressors, such as warfare exposure, sexual harassment and family stressors to work and family outcomes for the veterans. Although there were many similar associations found for both females and males, there were also some gender-specific pathways. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a significant contributor of poorer outcomes for both male and female veterans, whereas depression played a more detrimental role for females over males. Alcohol misuse was significant in predicting impairment for both males and females, albeit weaker for males. Understanding more about gender specific factors contributing to post-deployment well-being may help better cater to veterans’ needs in the years following their military services.

The publication can be accessed here.

Factors associated with poor self-reported health within the UK military and comparisons with the general population: a cohort study

A cohort study investigating factors associated with self-reported health in the UK military was recently published. Jenkins et al. (2017) at the King’s Centre for Military Health Research carried out the study in which they collected self-reported health data from 7,626 serving and ex-serving UK military personnel and compared this with data taken from the 2011 Census that included 19,452,300 civilians from England and Wales. The results indicated that the majority of military personnel reported good health, whereas poor health was linked to common mental disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder symptomology, history of self-harm, obesity, older age (ages 35–49) and current smoking. The percentage of military personnel reporting poor health (13%) did not significantly differ from the general public (12.1%), which was a surprising result but may indicate that military personnel are less likely to report problems with their health. These results demonstrate that both psychological and physical health problems contribute to poor self-reported health thus treatment services should continue to address both areas.

The publication can be accessed here.

5th – 11th June 2017

Life Beyond Sight Loss


On 24th May, Blind Veterans held a Research and Innovation Seminar at the Victory Services Club to discuss topics from sight loss and traumatic brain injury to advances in military ocular care. The event boasted excellent speakers from different areas of ocular research, including representatives from the British Medical Defence Services, the University of York, and researchers from the United States who collaborate with Blind Veterans UK.

To read our review on this seminar, please click here.

Lithium may be Beneficial for Treating Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain caused by a trauma to the head.

TBI in military settings is believed to most often follow from a blunt force trauma to the head, in particular, blast injury secondary to improvised explosion devices. Researchers are able to study TBI in a laboratory using rodent models. These models have shown that TBI causes impairment to neurotransmission, a biological process whereby neurons communicate via a release of chemicals. The reduction in neuronal communication is hypothesised to contribute to the behavioural dysfunction seen in TBI. Carlson and colleagues at University of Pittsburgh, United States, recently published a report in Experimental Neurology with findings that demonstrate a potential therapeutic use for Lithium Chloride in the treatment of TBI. Rats that were administered with Lithium Chloride, daily, for two weeks showed significant improvements in cognitive functioning. The researchers discovered that Lithium Chloride facilitated crucial components in the neurotransmission process, thus alleviating the disruption of chemical firing caused by TBI. Since neurotransmission is required for learning and memory, the increase in neuronal firing led to the improved cognitive abilities seen in the rats treated with Lithium Chloride.

The published report can be accessed here.




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