Sensory System Traumatic Injury

What & Why

Soldier with eye injury

The Sensory System Traumatic Injury Restoration and Rehabilitation research portfolio includes Department of Defense efforts in the areas of visual, auditory, and vestibular dysfunction associated with traumatic injury, with a view ranging from basic research through clinical development. These efforts include research focused on sensory system dysfunction associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Statistical research findings vary depending upon the source and population assessed but demonstrates the need to prioritize medical research focused on Sensory System Traumatic Injury Restoration and Rehabilitation:

  • Combat ocular injury occurs from explosions with fragmentary munitions in 73-82% of cases (Mader TH, et al., Ophthalmology 2006; Thach AB, et al., Ophthalmology 2008).
  • Thirty-eight percent of Service members with a polytrauma injury experience visual impairment. Of these injuries, those that were blast-related were associated with more cases of visual impairment (52%) (Goodrich GL, et al., J Rehabil Res Dev. 2007).
  • Tinnitus and hearing loss are the most prevalent Service-connected disabilities for Veterans receiving compensation (Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Benefits Report, Veterans Benefits Administration).
  • Service members exposed to blast with resultant TBI commonly report symptoms including dizziness and imbalance (Terrio et al., J Head Trauma Rehabil, 2009).
Eye injury examples

Top Priorities

Scientific Steering Committees are convened to identify and prioritize the current and future research needs of each focus area. Results of these discussions have led to the identification of capability gaps and priorities.

Research in the Sensory System Traumatic Injury Restoration and Rehabilitation portfolio is focused in the following areas:

  • Understanding the etiology of sensory system traumatic injuries
  • Mitigating and treating traumatic injuries, including TBI-associated sensory system dysfunction
  • Developing new and improved diagnostic capabilities and assessment strategies
  • Employing strategies to restore and/or rehabilitate patients following traumatic injury
  • Pursuing epidemiological studies of sensory trauma, including correlative studies related to injury type, clinical outcomes, and co-morbid conditions
  • Developing strategies for identifying and addressing co-morbidities associated with sensory system dysfunction

Work in Progress

Examples of research efforts in the Sensory System Traumatic Injury Restoration and Rehabilitation portfolio include:

Soldier with BrainPort V100 eye technology device
  • Identifying the molecular and physiological mechanisms of auditory dysfunction
  • Pharmacotherapy and regenerative medicine-based approaches to improve healing and restore auditory function
  • Developing and evaluating biocompatible materials, pharmacological therapies, and devices for the treatment of ocular injuries and restoring function
  • Elucidating the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying traumatic ocular injuries
  • Developing, refining, and testing novel treatment strategies for TBI-associated sensory system dysfunction
  • Clinical assessment of assistive technologies for vision, hearing, and balance