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UNC leads study on PTSD and traumatic brain injuries

That’s why UNC and Harvard University are conducting a five-year study on PTSD and traumatic brain injury. McLean is leading the study, which is funded by a $21 million grant, and said it’s the first of its kind.

He said the study was sparked by President Barack Obama and The National Institutes of Health.

“Because of this crisis among veterans, President Obama issued an executive order that ordered the NIH to launch major initiatives to achieve breakthroughs in understanding these disorders because we still don’t understand them well at all,” McLean said.

McLean said the study focuses on civilians because it is easier to study civilian trauma survivors than it is to perform research studies on people who are on the front line.

“The goal of the study is to gain a better understanding of these disorders and come up with new ideas for treatment and do as much that we can that would advance the care of veterans with these illnesses and again with civilians who develop these issues after traumatic events,” McLean said.

McLean said more than 2.6 million veterans have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001 and adverse neurological outcomes, such as post traumatic stress disorder, are an epidemic.

Sarah Linnstaedt, a researcher in the study, brought her background in RNA biology to the study.

“We’re trying to find out whether microRNA, mRNA or non-coding RNA can predict whether someone is going to develop one of these adverse outcomes like pain or PTSD and whether we can gain insight into the molecular mechanisms that might be causing these outcomes by analyzing RNA,” Linnstaedt said.

Linnstaedt said she is focusing on how women and men are affected differently by traumatic events.

“We know from a number of different studies in the field that women are more susceptible to pain and PTSD and these other outcomes and now we want to know why,” she said.

Kenneth Bollen, another researcher on this study, will focus on statistical models. He said the study will use surveys and physiological data to follow people over time.

“It is important in that a significant proportion of the population will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives,” Bollen said in an email.

“If we can further our understanding of trauma, we have a chance to prevent or reduce the most negative consequences of such events.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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