By Spc. Creighton Holub, Army News Service
FORT HOOD, Texas -- A number of Soldiers have
volunteered to assist the University of Texas conduct a study to learn
more about the emotional and psychological wounds of post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD).
Soldiers assigned to the 4th BCT,
1st Cavalry Division, watch an instructional video before
providing saliva samples for DNA collection at the
. The Soldiers volunteered for a battery of tests designed to
track how their brains and bodies function before and after
their upcoming deployment to
. (Photo by Spc.
Creighton Holub )
In an effort to combat PTSD symptoms experienced by U.S.
servicemembers returning from battle, the Imaging Research Center at
the university's Austin campus is evaluating volunteers from the 4th
Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Cavalry Division, before they depart
for their upcoming deployment.
"We are initiating a beginning," said retired Col.
Brian Baldwin, who is the PTSD research project manager. "There
is no previous database like what we're starting here. I equate this
to heart disease 20 years ago. The research that was done enables us
to mitigate those risk factors. PTSD is a wound of war that we need to
protect our Soldiers from."
The volunteer Soldiers run through a battery of stress-related
tests to create a baseline for each individual.
The results of the tests will be compared against the same
tests after returning home from the unit's rotation to Iraq.
The tests involve Magnetic Resonance Imaging
(MRI) scans, genetic screening and psychological assessments.
The Soldiers also have to complete a monthly online questionnaire to
track their experiences while deployed.
Due to the amount of time required for each MRI scan session,
only a handful of troops can participate in the testing.
However, many of the brigade's Soldiers jumped at the
opportunity to learn about the landmark study.
Pfc. J.B. Lyons, an infantryman from Davilla, Texas,
volunteered for the study before Baldwin's initial briefing at Fort
Hood had concluded.
"I hope ... that they can do something effective with the
information," Lyons said about his hopes for the study. "The
chances are that at least one of us here today will get PTSD during
this combat tour."
One of Lyons' family members deployed to Iraq as a civilian
contractor and returned home with a form of PTSD. This was the
motivating factor that he said influenced his willingness to help in
A former infantry Soldier who served in the Vietnam War has a
hand in the study's MRI scanning process.
"I would like to see the results of this study, because I
had a lot of friends who had PTSD," said Ronnie Hunter, a chief
technician at the research center and a Vietnam veteran from 1968 to
1970. "My first day in Vietnam was the start of the Tet
While military medicine techniques have advanced since the days
forms of PTSD were referred to as "Shell Shock" and
"Battle Fatigue," the mitigation of the effects of combat on
the mind still has a great deal of room for improvement.
"We can do a better job with our treatments," said
Dr. Deborah Stote, a clinical psychologist working on the research
team. "We're trying to see what changes in the brain occur from
The research team is also working with the Carl R. Darnall Army
Medical Center at Fort Hood and with the University of Pittsburgh
Medical Center on the project.
"The Army is doing this because the Army cares about
Soldiers and families," Baldwin said. "The Army is investing
resources in addressing the PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
"We have the right researchers, the right graduate
students and the best players -- the Soldiers,"
(Holub serves with the 4th BCT, 1st Cavalry
Division Public Affairs.)