By Spc. Creighton HolubMay 22, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, May 22, 2008) -- A number of Soldiers have volunteered to assist the University of Texas conduct a study to learn more about the emotional and psychological wounds of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In an effort to combat PTSD symptoms experienced by U.S. service members returning from battle, the Imaging Research Center at the university's Austin campus is evaluating volunteers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, before they depart for their upcoming deployment.
"We are initiating a beginning," said retired Col. Brian Baldwin, who is the PTSD research project manager. "There is no previous database like what we're starting here. I equate this to heart disease 20 years ago. The research that was done enables us to mitigate those risk factors. PTSD is a wound of war that we need to protect our Soldiers from."
The volunteer Soldiers run through a battery of stress-related tests to create a baseline for each individual. The results of the tests will be compared against the same tests after returning home from the unit's rotation to Iraq.
The tests involve Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI scans, genetic screening and psychological assessments. The Soldiers also have to complete a monthly online questionnaire to track their experiences while deployed.
Due to the amount of time required for each MRI scan session, only a handful of troops can participate in the testing. However, many of the brigade's Soldiers jumped at the opportunity to learn about the landmark study.
Pfc. J.B. Lyons, an infantryman from Davilla, Texas, volunteered for the study before Col. Baldwin's initial briefing at Fort Hood had concluded.
"I hope... that they can do something effective with the information," Lyons said about his hopes for the study. "The chances are that at least one of us here today will get PTSD during this combat tour."
One of Pfc. Lyons' family members deployed to Iraq as a civilian contractor and returned home with a form of PTSD. This was the motivating factor that he said influenced his willingness to help in the research.
A former infantry Soldier who served in the Vietnam War has a hand in the study's MRI scanning process.
"I would like to see the results of this study, because I had a lot of friends who had PTSD," said Ronnie Hunter, a chief technician at the research center and a Vietnam veteran from 1968 to 1970. "My first day in Vietnam was the start of the Tet Offensive."
While military medicine techniques have advanced since the days forms of PTSD were referred to as "Shell Shock" and "Battle Fatigue," the mitigation of the effects of combat on the mind still has a great deal of room for improvement.
"We can do a better job with our treatments," said Dr. Deborah Stote, a clinical psychologist working on the research team. "We're trying to see what changes in the brain occur from PTSD."
The research team is also working with the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood and with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on the project.
"The Army is doing this because the Army cares about Soldiers and Families," Col. Baldwin said. "The Army is investing resources in addressing the PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
"We have the right researchers, the right graduate students and the best players - the Soldiers," Col. Baldwin added.
(SPC Holub serves with the 4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)