Researchers shed light onto brain injuries

May 16, 2012 6:58:40 PM PDT
A new answer to a question first raised in the war zone: Why do soldiers who appear to survive explosions without physical injury often suffer from brain damage later on? A researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory explains why.

Another war zone, another IED, another injured soldier who, even if he survived the initial blast, could very well face long term brain damage. Finally new research by a team including William Moss, Ph.D., at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has scientifically identified the cause.

"This is the first case study to show that blasts from explosives, like IED's cause brain damage," Moss said. "This has been a mystery because the mechanism wasn't known."

Traumatic movement causes chemical reactions that break down structure with time. It's the same kind of damage that affects football players after severe, concussive hits.

"You get a neurological or biological chemical cascade that causes problems over time. This is very good because it means doctors can find ways to intercede."

As to what way that might eventually be, more studies need to be done. But this one did have one other significant finding -- that whether in the lab, on a football field or in a battle zone, shielding a head from movement keeps the injuries from happening at all. Researchers will be looking at how to minimize that problem, as well.