For those who have served our country in the military, even if they did not directly see combat, suffering from military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) may seem all too likely, if not inevitable.
The two disorders carry many similarities in symptoms, such as irritability, depression, hypersensitivity, memory loss, dizziness, and an increased liklihood of dealing with drug or alcohol addiction. Due to these similarities, misdiagnosis has been rampant. This has led to serious issues in ensuring military veterans and current servicemembers are able to access the correct treatment and disability that need.
One recent study, however, suggests that it may soon be far easier for medical professionals to accurately diagnose traumatic brain injury and PTSD. What does this mean for servicemembers dealing with service-connected PTSD or TBI? Let’s take a look.
The researchers used an EEG (or electroencephalogram), a test set to measure electrical activity in the brain.
Researchers in the study were able to measure the size and direction of brain waves to look for certain abnormalities. They used a large set of 147 EEGs given to both past and present military personnel that had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, looking for patterns of activity at different locations that line up with military-caused TBI and PTSD.
What they found was promising — the brain waves moved in opposite directions throughout the brain, suggesting strongly that the two begin in different locations within the brain. While this particular result doesn’t actually pinpoint an exact region where they differ, it does show a pattern that helps to tell the two disorders apart when a medical professional is looking at a large group of results at once.
As quoted in this article directly from the VA, Laura Manning Franke, Ph. D., the study’s lead researcher and a research psychologist at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, “When you’re looking at an EEG, you can’t easily tell where in the brain the signals associated with TBI and PTSD are coming from. You get kind of a course measure — left, right, anterior, posterior.”
The study won’t lead to an overnight breakthrough in diagnosing or treating individual cases. It will, however, help researchers and doctors to establish a baseline “average” for both diagnoses to help them in the future when studying individual EEG results.
For example — the study linked service-connected TBI with increases in low-frequency waves, and PTSD was linked with decreases in those same low-frequency waves, with both frequencies primarily located in different parts of the brain.
Researchers are optimistic that these differences explain some of the most commonly-seen symptoms associated with both, from the decline in responsiveness and memory problems of TBI to the heightened anxiety associated with PTSD.
As of today? Not a ton. Studies are ongoing in working to find a way to use the results of this study to help in treatment of veterans and current servicemembers dealing with individual cases of service-connected TBI or PTSD, but so far it’s still very difficult to apply anything to individual diagnoses.
The results of the study do suggest that it’s more important than ever to obtain a correct diagnosis in order to implement the correct treatment plan to gain any kind of a positive result — since mTBI and PTSD take place in separate parts of the brain, the confusion of these conditions and a misdiagnosis could end with a former or current servicemember being treated ineffectively, risking their condition only growing worse until the correct diagnosis is found.
These results also supports what those who serve already knew — military-induced TBI and PTSD symptoms can and do continue for years or even decades after their time in service. mTBI and PTSD are known to cause long-term changes in the way the brain itself operates on a daily basis.
Don’t let anyone tell you, a veteran who has served, that “it has been too long” for your symptoms to still strongly affect your daily routine. Science stands behind you and all military servicemembers in acknowledging that the affects of traumatic brain injuries and PTSD as a result of military service can truly last for life.
At BNTD Law, our SC Veterans Advocates are military servicemembers themselves, so they understand the unique stressors of military life. They also understand that seeking VA disability can be a complicated process, and have dedicated themselves to ensuring that veterans and current members of the military have their individual rights protected and receive the compensation they deserve.
Whether you are seeking VA disability for TBI or PTSD, other service-connected conditions, survivor benefits, VA negligence, or any other military-related claims, we would be happy to speak with you about your unique sitation. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or online at any time!