Low level blast explosions harm brain

September 16, 2013
Credit: 2013 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

Repeated exposure to low level blasts (LLB) can cause symptoms similar to sports concussion. Soldiers or law enforcement officers called "breachers" receive training in using low level blasts for forced entry. They may be at risk for diminished neurocognitive performance and symptoms caused by the harmful effects of blast-related pressure changes on the brain, as described in a study published in Journal of Neurotrauma.

Charmaine Tate and colleagues, New Zealand Defence Force (Auckland), Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. (Alachua, FL), Naval Medical Research Center and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Silver Spring, MD), and University of Florida (Gainesville), measured the levels of three blood , performance on , and self-reported symptoms among a "breacher" population of the New Zealand Defence Force.

The authors compared the composite scores of the five individuals with the highest scores to the five participants with the lowest scores. They report a significant relationship between blood biomarker load and neurocognitive deficits and between symptoms and neurocognitive performance.

In the article "Serum Brain Biomarker Level, Neurocognitive Performance, and Self-Reported Symptom Changes in Soldiers Repeatedly Exposed to Low-Level Blast: A Breacher Pilot Study," the researchers describe their findings and conclude that the results suggest "a measureable degree of perturbation linked to LLB exposure."

John T. Povlishock, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Neurotrauma and Professor, VCU Neuroscience Center, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond notes that, "Although the work presents a pilot study, its finding are potentially of great importance. Not only does this report strongly suggest the damaging consequences of repeated blast injury, but it also identifies biomarkers capable of detecting change in this population. As noted by the authors, these biomarker studies, together with the composite data analysis methodologies reported in this communication, should prove invaluable in future expanded studies of injury."

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