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Measuring the Brain’s “Temperature” to Fight TBIs

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are common among military personnel, especially those involved in active duty. As reported by the website military.com, concussions are the most common combat related injuries. Violent blasts, falls and strikes to the head may all cause soldiers to experience concussions. These occurrences may be mild, with symptoms that only last a few minutes or hours. Median level concussions are the most common, with symptoms lasting a few months and a small percentage of soldiers experience the most serious TBIs, with symptoms that persist for months and even years. The US military actively works to prevent, diagnose and treat TBIs in the most effective an efficient manner possible. According to recent reports, the Army has a new tool in its fight against this serious condition.

Army Times is reporting that the Defense Automated Neurobehavioral Assessment (DANA) is helping medics to more quickly diagnose the existence and seriousness of TBIs. With the assistance of a cellular phone application, information about a soldiers condition is instantly shared with other physicians, even if the soldier is on the battlefield. Here’s how it works. The soldier is given a series of tests that are conducted like a video game. The testing can last anywhere from five to forty five minutes and measures the soldier’s speed and accuracy when responding to the questions. The scores are then sent to a medical provider, who analyzes them for possible TBI indications. The army likens this to measuring the temperature of the brain, so DANA is commonly referred to as a “brain thermometer”.

FDA Approval

According to the article, the Food and Drug Administration gave the Army clearance for DANA last year, which means that the agency deems it safe for use. However, no official determination was made regarding its effectiveness. The CEO of the company that manufactures the device stated that it’s been tested in a variety of combat environments and it was found to be “a highly reliable cognitive impairment assessment tool in clinical and research settings.”

As Army officials finish testing the program, medics will continue utilizing current assessment techniques.

The Military Acute Concussion Evaluation is a current screening method that measures the severity of a TBI after the diagnosis is complete. The injury causing event is examined, along with any presenting symptoms. Medics then reportedly conduct brief neurological and cognitive tests.

The Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric (ANAM) is a computer based testing program used to measure cognitive changes. Prior to deployment, all soldiers are given a test to determine their baseline cognitive scores. When exposed to an event that causes a concussion, the ANAM is conducted and the results are compared with the soldier’s baseline numbers.

Researchers and Army officials are excited about the potential for DANA. It is even being tested as a tool within the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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