Blast Exposure Model for Career Artillery Personnel Exposed to Repetitive Low-Intensity Blast

Blast overpressure dynamics emanating from military artillery pieces is unique from other military weapon systems that may have the potential to exhibit long-term neurological effects. This project focuses on the development of a prototype model system for repetitive blast exposure for artillery weaponry. This model will provide a tool to operators and system planners to assess potential long-term neurological effects of low-intensity blast exposure specific to military artillery communities. The model will also enable the assessment of relationships between the numbers of repetitive low-intensity blast exposure from artillery weapons with specific neurological outcome measures. The primary deliverable of this project will be a model for potential brain and systemic physiological changes that occur after repetitive exposure to low-intensity blast overpressure events in career experienced military artillery personnel. Proposed projects shall 1) conduct a human study to determine the neurophysiological effects of repetitive low-level exposure to overpressure associated with artillery weaponry in military personnel assigned to artillery units, and 2) use these data sets to develop a model for potential brain and systemic physiological changes that occur after repetitive exposure to low-intensity blast overpressure events. The research project award recipient was selected from the Offerors who responded to MTEC’s Request for Project Proposals (20-04-BlastModel).

Developing a Model of Brain and Systemic Physiological Changes in Experienced Artillery Service Members

Project Team: University of Virginia

Award Amount: $1.42M

Project Duration: 36 months

Project Objective: The current effort will develop a model describing predictive brain and systemic physiological features of artillery blast exposure over a career. This model will be informed by a prospective assessment of career artillery service members and matched controls. The study would build upon existing partnerships with the Navy and National Institutes of Health studying repetitive low-level blast exposure in operational populations. In developing the model, this study will determine the physiological, structural, cognitive, and neurophysiological effects of chronic, low-level blast exposure from artillery operations. Previous studies show converging evidence for a neurophysiological effect from cumulative exposure to blast, which is consistent with subjective reports of cognitive impairment by breachers. This study will expand on these findings by examining a cohort of experienced artillery personnel who may be incurring a cumulative effect from repeated, low-level blast exposure. This study will evaluate up to 30 participants from an artillery personnel experimental group and up to 30 participants from an unexposed control group. Participants will travel to the University of Virginia (UVA) for cognitive and neuropsychological testing, biospecimen collection, vestibular and auditory testing, and neuroimaging studies.