Attn: women vets! VA wants to test your brains!

They will wait until after you die, though.

Jonathan Kaupanger
January 25, 2018 - 12:15 pm

(Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

The VA wants women veterans to donate their brains to Veterans Affairs for research.

But, why?

It looks like the answer to solving both traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS) could be locked inside their heads!

The reason for the uncertainty is because most of the research on the subject has been very one sided.  In fact, there’s almost no female postmortem brain tissue available for study right now.    

“In the past, the focus of TBI and PTSD brain research has primarily been based on male brains – without any active recruitment for women,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, executive in charge of Veterans Health Administration.  “We have a lot to learn about how the female brain deals with TBI and PTSD, which makes this effort long overdue.”

In fact, you have to go all the way back to the early 1990’s to find any studies about progressive degenerative diseases like TBI and PTSD. 

VA is perfectly suited to work on this project too.  Already at the Brain Science Centre at the Minneapolis VA Medical Centre, researchers have been able to pinpoint the circuits in the brain that drive PTS flashbacks and panic attacks.  They’ve also discovered just how incredibly different a woman’s brain is from a man’s.

Explaining the difference  in a CBC article, Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos, director of the Brain Science Centre, said “What we have found is that women, in many different tasks, process information about five times faster than men, and use much less of their brain to do identical cognitive performance.”

He goes on to say that because women use parts of their brain more efficiently, if they are hit, they are in big trouble. But for men, it seems that their brains can compensate for damage better. 

Major testing contributes to these results, like measuring brain waves and cognitive skills on women while they are alive and healthy.  Tissue donation, hopefully, will happen many years in the future, but by signing up to do it now, researchers will have the chance to learn about participants’ health issues now, and how they may change over the years. 

Information from these studies will help research more than just traumatic events due to combat exposure.  Treatments for survivors of sexual or physical abuse, terrorist attacks, car accidents and natural disasters could also be found in the results.

The request for donations was made while announcing a partnership with VA’s National Center for PTSD and PINK Concussions, a non-profit organization that works to improve both pre injury education and post-injury medical care for women and girls, specifically for brain injuries.  You can take the Pink Brain Pledge and leave your brain to research by going here.