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What is TBI?

Traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain is physically injured, usually by a sudden force. With military members, such an injury may result from the force associated with a blast or explosion.

TBIs can also be caused by falls, motor vehicle accidents, assaults or any sudden blow to the head. The force may cause the brain to jolt backward and forward, hitting the skull and causing damage to the internal lining, tissues and blood vessels. This damage can result in internal bleeding, bruising or swelling of the brain. Because the damage is internal, there may be no visible head wound. TBI can range from mild to severe, depending on the circumstances of the injury. Some people who experience a TBI can recover completely without medical intervention. Others who experience a severe TBI may have permanent disability.

Any brain injury, whether mild, moderate, or severe, can temporarily or permanently diminish a person’s physical abilities, including motor function; impair thinking abilities, including memory and reasoning; affect sensation, including touch, taste and smell; interfere with emotional and behavioral well being; and impede language and communication abilities. It is important for anyone who may have a TBI to be evaluated by a physician at the earliest possible opportunity.


Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) & Neurotrauma


Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has long challenged caregivers, who have limited options for determining prognosis and providing treatment. Recent prevalence of severe, moderate and mild TBI from military combat has increased the visibility of these issues.

TBI and spinal cord trauma are major causes of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Associated bio-physical changes are difficult to directly measure. The pathophysiology of TBI occurs in stages over prolonged periods of time. Better methods for characterization can aid in tailoring interventions to achieve better outcomes.

CIMIT encourages novel approaches to treatment through functional and metabolic imaging and electromagnetic stimuli to localize treatment sites, measure progress, and identify the stages of recovery.

CIMIT’s TBI & Neurotrauma Program seeks to explore novel techniques, including systemic and focal pharmacologic regimens, applied energy from lasers and ultrasound, and neuro-technological techniques, as methods to determine the stages at which they may be best applied.  This program leverages the innovations of CIMIT Neurotechnology, Traumatic Stress Disorders, and Trauma & Casualty Care Programs, recognizing that many patients suffer from combinations of conditions that require clinicians to draw on a range of specialty resources.

  • Projects
  • Forum/Events
  • News
FY11 TBI CIMIT-Funded Projects and
Past Projects Relevant to TBI & Neurotrauma
Alexander Lin BWH 2011 Neurochemical and Multimodal Biomarkers for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Lauren O'Donnell BWH 2011 Diagnosis of diffuse axonal injury using robust tract-based quantification of diffusion tensor imaging
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD BIDMC 2011 Noninvasive, Physiologic Characterization of Cortical Plasticity After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Humans-392
Alexander Rotenberg CHB 2011 A novel application of intranasal Huperzine A in treatment of traumatic brain injury
Martha Shenton, PhD BWH 2011 Improving Imaging of Diffuse Axonal Injury in Traumatic Brain Injury
Yang (Ted) Teng, MD, PhD BWH 2011 Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury Pain with Huperzine A: A Pre-clinical Study
Michael Hamblin, PhD MGH, CHB 2009 Trauma & Casualty Care: Transcranial NIR Light for Traumatic Brain Injury
Felipe, Fregni MD, PhD BIDMC, Spaulding 2009 Image Guided Therapy: The Effect of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Combined with Arm Training Using Glove-ArMEO Robotic Device on Motor Recovery in Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD BIDMC 2007 Neurotechnology: Modularized, Portable, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Device
Johannes de Boer, PhD MGH 2007 Image Guided Therapy and Neurotechnology: Optical Detection of Neural Activity for Neurosurgical Repair
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD BIDMC 2005 Image Guided Therapy: DSI-Guided TMS: A System to Improve Focal Precision of Transcranial Brain Stem
Related Past CIMIT Forum and Events
Forum Nov. 10, 2009

Eric Bluman, MD, PhD: BWH, Foot and Ankle Center, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, HMS

COL Paul Pasquina, MD: US Army Medical Corps and Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center

Matt Mikosz: Hanger, Inc.

Henrik Malchau, MD, PhD: MGH and HMS

Cathryn Sundback, ScD: MGH

Lifei Guo, MD, PhD: BWH and HMS

Joseph S. Barr, Jr., MD: MGH and HMS

Care of the Wounded Warrior: Upper Extremity Injury
Forum June 9, 2009 Albert “Skip” Rizzo, PhD: Research Scientist and Research Professor, Institute for Creative Technologies and Dept. of Psychiatry/ School of Gerontology, USC Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan: Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy with Active Duty OIF/OEF Military Personnel with PTSD
Forum: Trauma and Critical Care Jan. 27, 2009

Matthew J. Martin, MD, FACS: Trauma Medical Director, Associate Residency Director, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Washington

David King, MD: MAJ, MC, USAR, Attending Trauma Surgeon, Attending Emergency General Surgeon, Attending Intensive Care Surgeon and Clinical Instructor in Surgery, MGH, HMS

"The Golden Hour" in Modern Combat Trauma: Different Battlefields, Same Problems

Continuity of Combat Casualty Care: The Case for Immediate Technological Improvement
Forum: Unraveling the Brain in Trauma and in Health Sep. 16, 2008

Van Wedeen, MD:

Marilyn Kraus, MD:
University of Illinois at Chicago

Mapping Brain Connectivity with Diffusion MRI

The Role of Diffusion Tensor Imaging in Traumatic Brain Injury

Forum: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Diagnosis & Therapy Apr. 1, 2008

Ross Zafonte, DO: Spaulding Rehab Hospital; MGH; CIMIT

Roger Pitman, MD: MGH

Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials from the Past for the Future

Neurological Soft Signs in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Traumatic Brain Injury Symposium entitled: Clinical Management and Advanced Treatment for Closed Head Injury Nov. 15, 2007

Ross Zafonte, DO: Spaulding Rehab Hospital; MGH; CIMIT

Lee Schwamm, MD, MGH

Press release: CIMIT, TATRC co-host successful symposium on TBI
Forum: Researchers Focus on Shock and Recovery Oct. 16, 2007 Carl Hauser, MD, FACE, FCCM; BIDMC, HMS

Alfred Ayala, PhD; Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University

Wolfgang Junger, PhD; BIDMC, HMS
Post-Resuscitation Injury - Translational Approaches to Cell Signaling in Shock and Resusciation

• Neutrophil Calcium Signaling in Shock and Trauma

• The Role of Systemic Immune Cell Signaling in Whole Body Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury

• Autocrine Regulation of Immune Cell Function

• Translational Application of Cell Signaling Biology to the Care of Sick Patients
CIMIT Summer Education Series 2007 Jul. 10,
Christopher Moore, PhD; MIT

Leigh Hochberg, MD, PhD; Brown
University, VA, HMS, MGH

Neurotechnology: Translating Basic Discoveries into
Clinical Promise

• Deciphering Cortical
Electrophysiological Signals
and their Applications
for Brain-Body Interfaces

Forum: Doctors Discuss Challenges of Traumatic Brain Injury May 22, 2007 Lee Schwamm, MD; MGH, HMS, MIT

Marc de Moya, MD; MGH, HMS

Mel Glenn, MD; Spaulding
• Acute and Chronic Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury

• A New Model of Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
Forum: Researchers Discuss Advances in Battlefield Medicine May 8, 2007 Col. Geoffrey Ling, MD, PhD; DARPA, Walter Reed, Johns Hopkins

Michael Callahan, MD, BTN & H, MSPH; DARPA
• Trauma Care and Soldier Performance
Forum: Experts Discuss Mass Casualty Incident Response Apr. 24, 2007 Sandy Bogucki, MD, PhD; Yale, US Dept. of Health & Human Services

Sheri Markwardt

Harvey Mudd
• Decoding Cortical Electrophysiology for the Detection of Seizures
Related Program News, Press Releases & Literature
CIMIT Statement on the Launching of the Home Base Program – a non-profit partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital CIMIT Press Release Sep. 9, 2009
Army’s S&T Efforts Aim to Protect Soldiers’ Minds USAASC Oct., 2008
CIMIT, TATRC co-host successful symposium on TBI CIMIT Press Release Nov. 15, 2007
A Shock Wave of Brain Injuries Apr. 8, 2007
Made-for-the-military Products Put Brakes on Bleeding Mar. 2, 2007
More in Massachusetts Get Drug for Stroke Boston Globe Oct. 20, 2006
Brain Injury Medicine, Zafonte Co-author Brain Injury Medicine:
Principles and Practice
Book By Nathan D. Zasler,
Douglas I. Katz,
Ross D. Zafonte

Ross Zafonte, DOProgram Leaders

Ross Zafonte, DO

Program Leader, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) & Neurotrauma

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TBI Key Facts

TBI can disrupt normal brain functions that are critical for normal motor function, memory, attention, thinking, mood regulation and personality. Survivors of TBI frequently exhibit persistent functional impairments in movement and strength, cognition, memory, mood and personality.  Morover, they are at risk for the development of epilepsy.

• 1.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury in the US each year

• Traumatic brain injury is more prevalent in the US than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries

Read more brain injury facts

Related Links

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page

Traumatic Brain

CDC: Traumatic Brain Injury

National Neurotrauma Society

Home Base Program






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