The Elusive Treatment for Brain Injuries in Iraq

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Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have been one of the most devastating weapons against American soldiers in Iraq. The design is simple, an explosive strapped to a rudimentary detonator, but the effect has been catastrophic on the technologically advanced U.S. Army. Soldiers who survive the blasts from IEDs have returned home with neurological damage that some of the world’s top neuroscientists are struggling to understand. Biomedical expert and Afghanistan veteran  Kevin “Kit” Parker told Technology Review, “With IEDs, the insurgents have by dumb luck developed a weapon system that targets our medical weakness: treating brain injury.”

Soldiers have been experiencing severe emotional, physical, and psychological damage due to the force IEDs have inflicted on the brain. These symptoms are often similar to post traumatic stress disorder, and the two traumas can often aggravate each other, but the causes are different. The military has tried to put pressure on scientists to step up the search for treatments, but progress has been slow. Neuropsychologist Jeffery Barth asked, “What will we do with all these people? We’re talking about thousands. This is going to overwhelm the VA hospitals.”

Image byabaporu, licensed underCreative Commons.

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