Lessons Learned from 30+-Year Study of Vietnam Vets with TBI

Thanks to the input of the caregivers of Vietnam vets enrolled in a longevity study, researchers have been better able to examine the toll of TBI on a person's social behavior.

See more videos with Dr. Jordan Grafman.

In the beginning I was right out of graduate school, and I only had a couple of months--I was hired sort of late into the project, and I only had a few months to set up the test battery. So, I looked through the literature and I said, okay, here are the things that everybody else has done. I'm going to do it, and we'll be able to assess it. After about a year or so, I'm realizing that many of the patients we saw-- many of the people we saw who had traumatic brain injuries that we knew had frontal lobe damage-- they were doing pretty well on these tests. Fortunately for me, the wives and sometimes parents of these guys started writing me because we sent them reports after somebody came-- even if this was a research project, we prepared a long report that went back home with them--and they were saying we missed the boat. And they were saying a lot of the problems that they were seeing we didn't study, and this involved social behavior--how they were like at home, how they got along with their children if they had young children, what was happening with their work, could they maintain a job, could they maintain back in school-- and we got lists of problems. So, thanks to the caregivers--thanks to the wives and parents and at that time parents of these guys--we were able eventually to change a little bit of our test battery--certainly for Phase 3 and the current phase, which has just ended now, Phase 4-- a lot of the studies we did were studies aimed at examining social behavior in these veterans who have been incredibly dedicated to our study. They come back all the time. I think we're now much better prepared to study everything from aggressive behavior to attitudes, to the ability of somebody to understand what-- or to at least to guess what somebody else's intentions are in a conversation, so we're much better able to do that now than we were 30 years ago, and we're able to take experimental tests and use them in a way that helps us better understand the outcomes of somebody who's had a traumatic brain injury, so we're doing that now.
Posted on BrainLine February 11, 2013.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.