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In addition to clinical services, the NICoE offers a robust Research Program, to support the directorate's mission: To advance the diagnosis and care of patients with traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions. Patients receiving care at the NICoE may opt to pursue involvement in a number of active studies. These involvements are voluntary and do not affect other aspects of the care received.

When starting treatment at the NICoE, some patients may be asked to participate in on-going research. Participation in clinical research is completely voluntary and will not affect the care you receive.

The NICoE conducts these studies in collaboration with other federal, academic, and private institutions to help further the treatment, research, and education of traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions.

Nutrition and Headache Study - Certain foods may decrease the number and pain levels of post-traumatic headache, a frequent and oftentimes chronic headache disorder associated with a TBI. NICoE researchers provide food to participants with TBI and migraine-like headaches in this multi-site study (NICoE, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (FBCH), Womack Army Medical Center (WAMC)) to study whether certain foods can improve post-traumatic headache.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for PTSD and mTBI Study - In collaboration with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services (USU) and the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research (CRSR), NICoE researchers are assessing whether TMS can help to lessen symptoms that can be associated with mild TBI (mTBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Results from this study may additionally shed light on whether there are positive effects on quality of life, and cognitive abilities, while also improving ongoing PTSD and mTBI symptoms.

NICoE Clinical Research Database Study – Utilizing the clinical data collected as part of NICoE’s four-week Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), NICoE researchers look at clinical care outcomes to inform future treatment for TBI and associated health conditions. Observed trends may offer insights into new ways to assess and treat TBI symptoms.

Brain Fitness Center - Computer-based cognitive programs, biofeedback tools, and educational classes offered through the Brain Fitness Center at NICoE may help individuals enhance cognitive performance. Researchers at the NICoE use these data to study potential changes in cognitive performance and assess the feasibility of computer-based rehabilitation services to enhance standard clinical practices.

Eye-Tracking Assessment of TBI (Oculomotor) – Subtle differences in routine eye movements may indicate whether or not an individual has experienced a TBI. The Defense Department has tasked the NICoE with evaluating three eye-tracking systems for assessing head injuries. The goal is to deploy the most sensitive system in the field to help with real-time identification of TBI.

Multisensory Integration Study – NICoE researchers are supporting a study to assess how well service members with mTBI and previous blast-exposure can integrate audio and visual information while stationary or walking. This study uses a simulated virtual environment called the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN). Findings may help supplement diagnostic tools and treatment options for service members. This study is being done in collaboration with Walter Reed’s National Military Audiology and Speech Pathology Center.

Hearing Rehabilitation Study - To address hearing impairments in NICoE patients, who clinically fall within normal hearing thresholds, NICoE researchers are evaluating the impact of low-gain hearing aids to lessen symptoms and improve quality of life. Early results indicate that participants showed significant improvements in auditory processing in noisy environments.

Neuroimaging Study - NICoE investigators are using advanced imaging techniques along with sophisticated processing methods to develop imaging biomarkers for TBI. These biomarkers would serve both as objective evidence of TBI in clinical practice and as measures useful for validating TBI therapies. The data acquired under this study is compiled into a database that can be shared with investigators at other institutions to promote collaboration and share knowledge.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) Study – The NICoE’s MEG study allows researchers to map brain activity by non-invasively recording the magnetic fields produced when brain cells communicate with one another. By understanding the functional changes in brain activity seen in different patient populations, NICoE researchers aim to further identify strategies to improve cognitive and emotional functioning in those affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI) and associated health conditions.

Genomic Expression Study – By studying patterns in genetic expression before and after treatment in the 4-week NICoE Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), researchers seek to identify potential biomarkers of TBI and posttraumatic stress. This study uses non-invasive, state-of-the-art technology to assess brain activity to better understand the need for future therapies for recovery after TBI and operational stressors.

The 15-Year Natural History Study – The NICoE and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) serve as the core site for this congressionally-mandated, multi-site, longitudinal study into the long-term implications of TBI. Now at its midpoint, this Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) study employs a host of clinical, behavioral, cognitive, sensory-motor, blood biomarkers, and imaging assessments to identify issues that may make TBI recovery more difficult.

The 15-Year Caregiver Study - The NICoE and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) serve as the core site for this congressionally-mandated, multi-site, longitudinal study into the impact of TBI on the service member’s caregiver and family. Now at its midpoint, this Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) study examines caregiver outcomes such as physical and mental health, employment, finances, family functioning, relationship satisfaction, and quality of life, as well as the impact on the health and behavior of the caregiver/service member’s children.

If you have any questions about the studies or would like to participate, please email:
dha.bethesda.ncr-medical.mbx.nicoe@mail.mil.