GE Global Research will use sensors to explore the symptoms of traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress syndrome in American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The two-year research study is expected to begin in the fall at Fort Gordon, Ga., and is funded by a $2.7 million congressional initiative to support wounded soldiers. The Department of Defense’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research center will manage the study as GE researchers work with Dr. Joseph Wood, the chief of clinical research for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, and Dr. Max Stachura, leader of Center for Telehealth at the Medical College of Georgia. GE is only in the early stages of the study but expects it to be fully operational by the fall.
GE will use passive activity sensors to study the way wounded soldiers sleep, assessing their brain activity, sleep quality, and rest and activity cycles. The data gathered will be correlated to symptoms in an effort to establish a “clinical relationship between activity and sleep and the severity of symptoms,” GE said. Most of the project’s work will occur at the Fort Gordon barracks, where the soldiers will sleep.
Data will be brought back to Niskayuna for further study.
The sensors are part of GE’s QuietCare technology currently being used in assisted living facilities for senior citizens. The sensors include analytical software that sends alerts based on unusual events in patient behavior.
As soldiers are deployed for prolonged periods, and in some cases, redeployed to combat zones, the likelihood they will develop traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress syndrome increases, GE said. Currently about 20 to 30 percent of returning soldiers experience the symptoms of traumatic brain injury.
Dan Cleary, GE Global Research principal investigator of computing and decision sciences, said the disorders affect families as soldiers come back exhibiting anger, behavioral changes, headaches, sleep deprivation and other changes in personality.
“With the incidence of TBI and PTSD rising among returning soldiers, more needs to be done to enhance our understanding and treatment of these disorders,” Cleary said. “Through this study, we will be using GE informatics technologies to learn more about the symptoms of TBI and PTSD and help the U.S. Army better assess and help affected soldiers recover.”
The results from the study could also have implications for treating stress disorders caused by non-combat events, such as car accidents.
“There’s really an opportunity to improve health care in some profound ways with what we learn from this project,” said Todd Alhart, GE Global Research spokesman.