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UCSD Study Shows Brain Trauma Increases PTSD Risk In Marines

Researchers looked at 1,648 active-duty Marines and Navy servicemen from four Camp Pendleton-based infantry battalions of the First Marine Division.

Photo by Steve Kaiser / Flickr
Photo by Steve Kaiser / Flickr
Written by Beth Ford Roth/KPBS

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) suffered by active-duty Marines deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan is greatest indicator of whether the Marines will later be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study by UC San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

Researchers looked at 1,648 active-duty Marines and Navy servicemen from four Camp Pendleton-based infantry battalions of the First Marine Division, according to a news release from UCSD:

The servicemen were evaluated approximately one month before a scheduled 7-month deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, one week after deployment had concluded, and again three and six months later...

Researchers asked about any head injuries sustained prior to joining the service and any head injuries sustained during deployment from a blast or explosion, vehicle accident, fall or head wound from a bullet or fragment.

Dr. Dewleen G. Baker, research director at the VA Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego, headed up the study. Baker says Marines who suffered from PTSD symptoms before their deployment, and those who experience intense combat while deployed had a higher risk of developing PTSD:

“However, TBI was the strongest predictor of PTSD, even when controlling for pre-existing symptoms and combat intensity. These findings may be used to identify individuals who may be at risk for developing PTSD and provide them with more immediate health care.”

The study was published in the Dec. 11 online issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

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