Even when vets had no symptoms at the time, exposure to bomb blasts seems to cause long-term damage.
Study Finds Brain Aging In Vets Exposed To Bomb Blasts
Credit: Veterans Administration
June 1, 2015

This is why we should have a damned good reason before we send people off to fight. And of course, the party that's so fond of fighting unnecessary wars is very tight-fisted when it comes to funding care for the humans damaged in their master plan. Via USAToday:

VA scientists have discovered signs of early aging in the brains of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans caught near roadside bomb explosions, even among those who felt nothing from the blast.

Years after coming home from war, veterans are showing progressive damage to the brain's wiring, according to a study published online Monday in Brain, A Journal of Neurology.

"Generally as we age, the connections (in the brain) deteriorate. But with those people with blast exposure it appears as though it's happening faster," said Benjamin Trotter, a bio-medical engineer with the Department of Veterans Affairs and lead author of the study.

Regina McGlinchey, a Harvard Medical School professor of psychology, VA scientist and study co-author, said the concern is that "what we generally see in older people in terms of declines in executive function, memory and planning would be happening at an earlier age."

Equally troubling is the lack of awareness of a blast injury. Many veterans studied said they never felt concussion-like symptoms such as dizziness, headaches or loss of consciousness. Others complained of those symptoms, but eventually saw them go away and military doctors concluded they had fully recovered.

Yet in both cases, brain scans years later showed signs of degeneration and early aging.

If symptoms of Alzheimer's disease or other dementia-like illnesses appear five or 10 years earlier in a large group of people, "this would have tremendous consequences for society," said William Milberg, a Harvard Medical School professor of psychology, VA scientists and study co-author. "We would have to figure out on a much larger scale ways of taking care of people."

The results expand on VA research published in November that reported a lack of communication between areas of the brain according to scans taken of troops who had been within 30 feet of an explosion.

"The most important message of these two studies is that they show for the first time in a large cohort of (Iraq and Afghanistan) veterans that exposure to explosions in combat affects the brain whether or not the soldier showed symptoms of a concussion at the time of the explosion," Milberg said.

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