Military Operational Medicine (MOM) – Improving Protection through Metrics for Exposure to Blast, and Enhancing Cognitive Health, Performance and Psychological Health

Joint Program Committee (JPC)-5/MOMRP is one of six major Defense Health Program (DHP) core research program areas within the DHP medical Research Development Test & Evaluation (RDT&E). JPC-5 is a committee of DoD and non-DoD medical and military technical experts in military operational medicine-related program areas. The mission of JPC-5/MOMRP is to develop effective biomedical countermeasures against operational stressors and to prevent physical and psychological injuries during training and operations in order to maximize the health, readiness, and performance of our Service members and their Families.

The MOMRP has identified two focus areas for funding under this RPP. To meet the intent of this RPP, each proposal MUST specifically address only ONE of the two Focus Areas described below. Offerors are not limited to a single proposal submission. Projects not aligned to at least one of these Focus Areas will not be considered for funding. It is expected that MTEC will make a total of 2 awards – a single award for each focus area.

FOCUS AREA #1 (Whole Body Blast): Development of survivability criteria and vital organ injury metrics for the whole body when exposed to extreme blast exposures. Personal protection equipment (PPE) for the Warfighter has been designed to primarily protect against injuries from projectiles, shrapnel, debris and blunt object impact in training and combat operational environments. At present, there are no appropriate guidelines and test methodologies to evaluate the protective performance of PPE, such as body armor and bomb suits, against primary blast. Therefore, this project aims to develop survivability criteria and vital organ injury metrics relevant to personnel exposed to potentially lethal primary blast, such as that resulting from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The end goal is to provide whole body blast injury criteria to evaluate the next generation bomb suit and body armor blast personal protection equipment.

FOCUS AREA #2 (Cognitive/Brain Health & Performance): Validation of personalized training and/or materiel (pharmacological/technological) approaches to build and enhance cognitive/brain health, performance and psychological health. Multi-domain operations will involve significant demands on Warfighter cognitive agility and resistance to a multitude of stressors. There is a lack of rigorously tested cognitive training and enhancing tools and a dearth of data demonstrating effectiveness of such tools on operationally relevant tasks, psychological health outcomes, and brain health. There is also a lack of prospective longitudinal data to understand appropriate training protocols and requirements (e.g., training dosing, duration). The end goal is to deliver an efficient and effective method for personalized training to build and enhance cognitive/brain health, performance and psychological health.

The research project award recipients were selected from the Offerors who responded to MTEC’s Request for Project Proposals (20-06-MOM).

Brain Fitness: An Individualized, Validated and Scalable Approach to Warfighter Brain Health and Performance

Project Team: Applied Research Associates

Award Amount: $0.95M

Project Duration: 25 months

Project Objective: The Applied Research Associates team proposes development of an individualized, validated and scalable approach to improving Warfighter Brain Health and Performance (“Brain Fitness”). Under the leadership of the University of Texas at Dallas, we began working on an initiative called The BrainHealth Project (TBHP). We propose to leverage, then optimize for the military, elements of TBHP, including the DoD-developed and commercially-available Brain Gauge, and two commercially-available, well-validated cognitive training approaches: Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) and BrainHQ. By grounding our work in these existing capabilities, we can reach the desired end goal of an efficient and effective approach to personalized training for Brain Fitness and can also deliver a software platform (TRL 5) with which the Government can distribute to longitudinally evaluate future training solutions.

Fast Automated Signal Transformation for Combat Training

Project Team: Applied Research Associates

Award Amount: $2.09M

Project Duration: 24 months

Project Objective: A physics-based approach will be used to approach the problem of estimating incident blast metrics from body-mounted sensor data. To account for shock reflections and shielding effects, software will be developed that is appropriate for high explosive blast sources as well as combat training blast loads from burning propellant. In addition to the blast physics required to develop the software, signal processing and data analysis techniques will be used to reduce the time required to process and analyze blast sensor data and develop metrics for blast load in potentially complex environments for a wide range of operationally relevant blast loading scenarios.

Development of Survivability Criteria and Vital Organ Injury Metrics for the Whole Body When Exposed to Extreme Blast

Project Team: The Geneva Foundation

Award Amount: $2.78M (additional cost share = $36K)

Project Duration: 38 months

Project Objective: The collective objective of the current study is to develop injury risk metrics suitable for assessing the effectiveness of bomb suits as countermeasures to primary blast in close collaboration with research leads of this program at WRAIR. These objectives have been developed in close consultation with the leads at WRAIR and will closely complement the studies to be conducted at WRAIR.

Restoring Memory with Task-Independent Semi-Chronic Closed-Loop Direct Brain Stimulation and Non-Invasive Closed-Loop Stimulus Timing Optimization

Project Team: University of Pennsylvania

Award Amount: $3.41M

Project Duration: 20 months

Project Objective: This effort proposes to use direct brain recording and stimulation in humans to translate a real-time system for enhancing memories for specific types of information. The team consists of five leading clinical centers aligned on the common goal of rapidly developing and testing approaches to enhance memory through a study of epileptic patients with history of moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury. Through application of a closed-loop system utilizing a multivariate classifier to adaptively deliver patterned electrical stimulation, we aim to dynamically drive patient’s memory networks into states optimized for memory encoding and retrieval and evaluate the effect on behavior using clinically-relevant measures of memory. In addition, we will extend these methods to the development and validation of a non-invasive system for memory enhancement, utilizing scalp EEG electrodes to control stimulus/cue presentation in real-time to boost performance of an ecologically-relevant virtual reality (VR) memory task.