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Traumatic brain injury patients, supercomputer simulations studied to improve helmets
Date:11/14/2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico are comparing supercomputer simulations of blast waves on the brain with clinical studies of veterans suffering from mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) to help improve helmet designs.

Paul Taylor and John Ludwigsen of Sandia's Terminal Ballistics Technology Department and Corey Ford, a neurologist at UNM's Health Sciences Center, are in the final year of a four-year study of mild TBI funded by the Office of Naval Research.

The team hopes to identify threshold levels of stress and energy on which better military and sports helmet designs could be based. They could be used to program sensors placed on helmets to show whether a blast is strong enough to cause TBI.

Many TBI sufferers experience no or subtle immediate symptoms that may keep them from seeking medical attention. The sensors could alert them to a potential problem.

"Our ultimate goal is to help our military and eventually our civilian population by providing guidance to helmet designers so they can do a better job of protecting against some of these events we are seeing clinically and from a physics perspective," said Taylor, Sandia's principal investigator on the project. "To do that we've got to know what are the threshold conditions that correlate with various levels of TBI."

The study is the only TBI research that combines computer modeling and simulation of the physical effects of a blast with analyses of clinical magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of patients who suffer such injuries, Taylor said.

Immediately following blast waves, soldiers can suffer brief losses of consciousness, but more damage evolves weeks later, Ford said. The symptoms headaches, memory loss, mood disorders, depression and cognitive problems can prevent sufferers from working, he said.

Taylor is applying shock wave physics to understand how sensitive brain tissue is
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Contact: Heather Clark
hclark@sandia.gov
505-844-3511
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories
Source:Eurekalert  

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