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Novel Treatment Improves Memory in Veterans


Considered one of the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, traumatic brain injury has been diagnosed in 314,000 members of the Armed Forces who served there. This is likely a gross underestimation due to many injuries being underreported. An estimated 15 percent of veterans who have suffered a mild TBI, such as from the blast waves from an explosion, have persistent cognitive deficits, leaving many with lifelong memory impairments.

Boot Campaign collaborator and a neuroscience research team at The University of Texas at Dallas led by Dr. John Hart Jr. and Dr. Michael Motes recently published a study in the Journal of Neurotrauma examining the effects of High-Definition Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (HD-tDCS) on memory and word recall deficits. HD-Transcranial direct current stimulation is a non-invasive, painless brain stimulation treatment that uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain. 

For the pilot study, military veterans with chronic TBI and verbal retrieval deficits received 10 sessions of 20 minutes of sham HD-tDCS or 10 sessions of 20 minutes of true HD-tDCS. Because this was a single-blinded study, participants did not know who was receiving the true HD-tDCS intervention and who was receiving the sham, or faked, intervention.

“Although HD-tDCS is still an experimental form of brain stimulation, it potentially has several advantages over other brain stimulation techniques because it is non-invasive, portable, and painless,” said Dr. John Hart.

In this study, memory and other relevant cognitive abilities were assessed immediately and 8-weeks later. Several study participants were veterans referred to the research team by Boot Campaign. Results of the study show up to 26% improvement in memory eight weeks following the active HD-tDCS treatment.

To our knowledge, this is the first nonpharmacological treatment trial targeting verbal memory in traumatic brain injury,” said study authors, Drs. John Hart and Michael Motes. “The treatment produced long-lasting effects for several months, showing promise for using transcranial direct current stimulation in treating long-term cognitive deficits from remote traumatic brain injury.”

“Boot Campaign’s health and wellness program, in part, aims to treat the underlying causes of brain injury and not just the symptoms veterans experience,” said Shelly Kirkland, Boot Campaign CEO. “Working side-by-side with some of the nation’s leading researchers, we are able to examine novel approaches to treating various issues experienced by military veterans and work diligently to help them return to their families and their communities with renewed health and hope for the future.”