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.
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.
Jordan Grafman, PhD, is director of Brain Injury Research, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. His investigation of brain function and behavior contributes to advances in medicine, rehabilitation, and psychology, and informs ethics, law, philosophy, and health policy.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.