Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine

Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine

A Featured HJF Research Program

After more than a decade of war, military physicians and researchers have made significant advances in treating service members’ injuries. Of the many injuries and illnesses that have challenged these dedicated medical professionals, traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains one of the most complex and prevalent. From 2000 to 2014, more than 300,000 service members sustained a TBI, according to the Department of Defense. To improve TBI treatment and transform brain injury research, the U.S. Congress established the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM) in 2008.

The center’s collaborative research efforts emphasize aspects of TBI that have high relevance to military populations. Advances made at CNRM also benefit civilians who experience more common forms of TBI during training, sports and motor vehicle accidents.

CNRM works with a large number of participating clinicians and scientists from USU, NIH and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Walter Reed Bethesda). Their mission: to build an interdisciplinary collaboration to catalyze TBI research.

Since its inception, CNRM’s research has involved more than 200 federal clinicians and scientists in Bethesda, Maryland, with primary appointments in 16 different academic departments at USU, the NIH Clinical Center and seven NIH institutes, and multiple clinical departments at Walter Reed Bethesda. Together, they lead more than 100 research projects. The center has also established clinical sites at Virginia Commonwealth University, Suburban Hospital, Washington Hospital Center and Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital.

“The center has created collaboration among military and civilian scientists and clinicians to engage investigators with diverse expertise and create opportunities to advance TBI research in the national capital area,” said Kirsten Youngren, the center’s executive manager.

CNRM focuses on directed studies to accomplish multiple goals. A broad range of TBI research approaches were integrated into six programs, which, together with the center’s scientific cores, form the heart of CNRM. The six programs are neuroimaging, biomarkers, neuroprotection, neuroregeneration, neuroplasticity and rehabilitation.

“The research program has evolved as the studies have progressed throughout the years,” Youngren said. “The research programs continue to develop more in-depth integration to explore important gaps in TBI research. Bringing together experts from different military medical facilities, USU and NIH have created a new approach.”

One study making progress is the Trauma Head Injury Neuroimaging Classification study, which uses magnetic resonance imaging on closed-head injuries rather than standard CT scans to identify the extent of injury and the degree to which the injury resolves or progresses. Hyperacute MRI studies have already identified new features in TBI patients that were unrecognized with CT imaging.

Whether the study focuses on brain imaging, analyzing tissue specimens or testing mechanisms of neuroregeneration, CNRM’s unique infrastructure and collaborative research remains focused on a single goal: improving patients’ lives.

TBI occurs when a sudden trauma, such as a blow or jolt to the head or an object piercing the skull and brain tissue, causes damage to the brain. Symptoms, which vary depending on the severity of the trauma, can include loss of consciousness, headache, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory and thinking.

As a result of TBI, at least 5.3 million Americans currently require long-term or lifelong help performing activities of daily living, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.