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Turning Hope Into Reality—Traumatic Brain Injury Research at the VA

Washington, DC (April 29, 2009) /PRNewswire/ — Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a complex type of injury to the brain's structure, is common among Veterans and has been called one of the "signature injuries" of modern combat. VA's research related to TBI is wide-ranging. Among its goals: shedding light on brain changes associated with the condition; improving methods of screening and diagnosis; developing drugs to treat brain injury or limit its severity; helping Veterans with TBI to reintegrate into their communities and regain maximum function; and learning the best ways to help family members cope and provide support.

TBI can cause pain and problems with thinking, memory, mood, focus, and other functions. For Veteran Kara Wooten, vision problems accompanied her TBI after she sustained severe IED-related injuries in Iraq. According to Gregory Goodrich, Ph.D., a research psychologist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, VA's research in visual impairment—a common challenge for Veterans with traumatic brain injury—allowed Wooten's research and care team " to pinpoint more precisely the types of vision problems she had, and that allowed us to specifically address those problems." While acknowledging that she has far to go in her rehabilitation, Wooten herself says, "I'm 150 million percent better than I was."

In another unique example of VA's innovative research endeavors, the Boston VA Medical Center has a driving simulation project that allows patients to experience life-like scenarios in a safe environment. Using a driving simulator reveals patients' deficits and allows researchers to train them to drive safely on the road. "To me, the VA research program is beautiful," says Willie Goodman, a participant in VA's driving simulator research. "This gives me a lot of hope."

To provide hope and restore function to Veterans like Goodman and Wooten with TBI, VA is carrying out many additional studies. Some of its research has led to the adoption of care standards throughout the VA and the Department of Defense.

Visit VA's Research and Development site at http://www.research.va.gov.

For information about the Department of Veterans Affairs, please visit http://www.va.gov/.

For updates on the work of VA Research, please visit http://www.research.va.gov/resources/pubs/factsheets.cfm.

For a program overview of the VA Research program, go to http://www.research.va.gov/resources/pubs/docs/Overview-of-ORD.pdf.

Media Contact:

Phil Budahn
Director Media Relations
202 461-7558