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How Obama’s brain mapping initiative could help car accident victims

June 18, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Research initiative called “BRAIN” will help find cures for traumatic brain injury and neurological disease

President Barack Obama has recently presented his government-sponsored research project to map the human brain. It is set for 2014 and would help discover new cures for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and neurological diseases.

The initiative’s official name is Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or “BRAIN” for short.

BRAIN will be essential in helping doctors, lawyers and the public better understand how auto accident victims with TBI, which has many complex and evolving symptoms. For example, doctors and lawyers often call TBI the “invisible injury” because it has so many serious symptoms and side effects, but people with TBI often appear and speak “normally.”

Traumatic brain injury is very real, but very misunderstood. And millions of Americans are living with it. Each year in the U.S., 1.7 million people will sustain a brain injury. Auto accidents are the second-leading cause of traumatic brain injury, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

BRAIN will require the development of new tools for neuroscientists and could lead to new treatments for traumatic brain injury, as well as Alzheimer’s epilepsy and stroke. Such tools could include the development of new technology that can record the electrical activity of more neurons in the brain. The initiative will involve both government agencies and private institutions, according to published reports.

BRAIN will use about $100 million in federal money over the next fiscal year.

Throughout his presidency, Obama has voiced the importance of using federal money with academia and business to foster projects with broad economic and social benefits. By tackling TBI, and understanding the brain, he has done just that.

I’ve written about the economic and societal effects of traumatic  brain injury, and it’s cost on society. Consider this staggering financial figure from the Brain Injury Association of America that shows how all of society is affected by traumatic brain injury:

In the U.S., direct medical costs and indirect costs of TBI, such as lost of productivity, totaled an estimated $76.3 billion each year.

How does this happen? Well, when brain injury victims are not properly diagnosed and don’t receive the extensive medical care they require, taxpayers often end up footing the bill. The medical and social complications of brain injury are very high, and can be devastating.

They include:

  • Dementia,
  • Alzheimer’s,
  • Family dysfunction,
  • Divorce,
  • Unemployment,
  • Suicide,
  • Involvement with the criminal system,
  • Homelessness.

Here are more statistics from the Brain Injury Association of America regarding the cost of TBI:

  • The average hospital-based acute rehabilitation is about $8,000 per day.
  • The range for post-acute residential rehabilitation is about $850-$2,500 a day.
  • Day treatment programs (e.g. four hours of therapy) are about $600 to $1,000 with no room and board.

People with brain injury must be recognized as a priority and treated.  There’s still a long way to go in the fight against traumatic brain injury, but Obama’s BRAIN project will very likely help medical professionals better understand and treat people with TBI.

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