The Department of Defense cut the ribbon today on a new center for the diagnosis, treatment, and study of traumatic brain injury and post-combat psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The $65 million National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in Bethesda, Maryland, will be part of the new WalterReedNationalMilitaryMedicalCenter.
The center will be able to house up to 20 inpatients when it opens for business this fall. It boasts state-of-the-art neuroimaging equipment and advanced virtual reality systems to be used for diagnosis, rehabilitation, and research.
"In terms of what's all there in one location, there isn't any such place elsewhere on Earth, let alone in the military system," says James Kelly, the neurologist tapped to head the new center. Kelly is on leave from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, where he is a professor of neurosurgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Kelly says a major focus of research at NICoE will be the potential interplay between mild traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Soldiers exposed to an explosive blast or blow to the head often exhibit some of the same symptoms as those who witness a traumatic event, Kelly says. There's also evidence that some of the same brain regions implicated in PTSD are especially vulnerable to physical injury, Kelly says. "There may be some overlap ... that we don't fully understand."