Joining Forces 2015

Featured Speakers:
 
“PTSD Symptoms Following Iraq War Deployment: 
Short and Long-term Outcome”
Jennifer J. Vasterling, PhD
Chief of Psychology and Investigator, Behavioral Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD, VABHS; Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine.

Summary:

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) represents one of the most significant health concerns arising among US service members who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars but has long been recognized as a potential consequence of war zone participation. PTSD may arise following exposure to any psychologically traumatic event (whether military or civilian) and includes persistent intrusion symptoms (e.g., distressing thoughts or dreams of the event), avoidance of trauma reminders, alterations in mood (e.g., inability to experience positive emotions) and cognition (e.g., persistent self-blame), and increased arousal and reactivity (e.g., sleep problems, angry outbursts). PTSD is also associated with tremendous personal and society costs, including elevated risk of suicidality, reduced quality of life, impaired day to day functioning, and other psychiatric and health problems. Pre-exposure information is particularly important in contextualizing PTSD following war-zone participation and other psychological traumas. This presentation will review findings relevant to PTSD from a prospective cohort study of Army soldiers and veterans who have been followed since 2003, prior to deployment to the Iraq War. Specifically, data will be presented on risk factors for development of PTSD and associated functional and health outcomes.

“Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: A Neurodegenerative Disease Following Repetitive Head Impact”
Robert A. Stern, PhD
Director of Clinical Research, BU Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Program; Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine.

Summary:

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive brain trauma.  Described in boxers as “Punch Drunk” or dementia pugilistica since the early 1900’s, CTE has only received major research focus since the early 2000’s when it was discovered in professional football players.  Since that time, CTE has also been neuropathologically confirmed in former football players who only played up through college and even high school, as well as in athletes who played other sports (including soccer, hockey, rugby).  CTE has also been diagnosed post-mortem in military service members exposed to blast injuries, and animal models of blast injury have demonstrated that CTE neuropathology is directly associated with blast trauma.  Although similar to Alzheimer’s disease, CTE is a unique disease neuropathologically. The clinical presentation of CTE involves a constellation of cognitive, mood, and behavioral changes, with dementia often reported as the disease progresses. A purely clinical diagnosis of CTE is difficult, if not impossible, because of the lack of any unique aspects of the clinical course and presentation of CTE, as well as the fact that many of the clinical features are common in the general population, with and without a history of head impact exposure. The topic of CTE has received a tremendous amount of media attention, resulting in the misperception that more is known about the disease than is actually known. This talk will provide an overview of what is currently known about CTE as well as what we now need to know.  Current research will be reviewed, including studies examining biomarker and other methods of diagnosing CTE during life, as well as investigations of potential risk factors of the disease, including head impact exposure variables and genetics.