US Army researchers use sensors, gels to study, mitigate brain and body blast effects

click to enlargeUS Army research labs have been leading the way for some years in researching how impacts, such as those experienced from explosive devices or other sources of concussion, can affect the brain and body. One tactic Army researchers in the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) are taking is to engineer increased protection in ground vehicles (ground vehicle systems in Army-speak). However, testing designs can’t be done with humans. One method used is a sensor-laden crash dummy (Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin or WIAMan, seen above left). Fred Hughes, director of the WIAMan Engineering Office, commented that “The manikin’s sophisticated bio-fidelity and robust sensor design provides an unmatched level of accuracy determining the potential effects of blast on soldiers in new vehicle systems.” Another tool is the Microsoft-designed Hololens which allows researchers to virtually explore explosion simulations. Both are being used to assess survivability and mobility design in vehicles. Armed With Science

At another part of RDECOM located at the Aberdeen (Maryland) Proving Ground, US Army Research Laboratory researchers have simulated brain texture and mass through a specially designed gel. These nanomaterials are designed to fluoresce at graduated intensities under pressure. The goal is that researchers can track blast effects on the brain at the cellular level. ARL research in this area is jointly conducted with counterparts in the Japanese Defense Ministry, where researchers are contributing their knowledge of physiological effects such as cortical depressant, blood circulation and oxygen levels in tissue. ARL News, YouTube video. Both tracks of research are designed to protect soldiers in the field from TBI, and better understand the effects of blast-created trauma to the brain.

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