Army Veteran Joseph Montanari is battling the aftereffects of concussions he experienced in the military—one in Iraq in 2004 and the other one in Kosovo in 1999. He struggles with balance issues and constant headaches. “It took a while to adapt once I got back from deployment,” he says.

Montanari participates in an ambitious new project that is seeking answers. It’s called the Long-term Impact of Military Relevant Brain Injury Consortium (LIMBIC). It’s the world’s largest research cohort of Veterans and service members that is dedicated to the study of mild traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion.

“Over the next five years, we will work to deliberately unlock the mysteries of military concussion.”

LIMBIC is funded by VA and the Department of Defense. The five-year program centers on two elements.

One is a long-term study of 3,000 to 5,000 Veterans and service members from all eras, 80% of whom will have had at least one mild TBI. The other 20% of the participants will also be combat Vets, but without a TBI history. They will serve as a control group for the research.

The other core element is an epidemiological database of military and VA health records, disability assessments, and all other administrative information on more than 2 million Vets and service members.

Team includes more than 50 researchers

Dr. David Cifu, a leading TBI expert, heads LIMBIC. He works at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

The research team consists of more than 50 researchers from VA medical centers, universities, and military treatment facilities, including five Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center sites.

“Over the next five years, we will work to deliberately unlock the mysteries of military concussion,” says Cifu.

LIMBIC continues work of earlier consortium

VA and DOD funded LIMBIC in October 2019 to continue the work of the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC). That six-year VA-DOD project focused on understanding the lifetime impacts of military service and mild TBI with respect to brain disorders like PTSD and neurodegenerative diseases, including dementia, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

In addition to being a LIMBIC participant himself, Joseph Montanari works for the program. He recruits others for the research and supports them in a variety of ways.

“I really enjoy being a part of it,” he says. “It’s just great to know that you’re doing something to possibly help out our brothers and sisters in the military. I’ve pretty much been through everything and had a lot of close calls out there. Now that I’m back in the states, it’s great to be able to help wherever possible.”

Read more about LIMBIC on the VA Research website. Also check out the VA Research topic page on TBI.

Photo at top: Army Veteran Joe Montanari suffered a TBI in Iraq. He currently works as the military coordinator for LIMBIC and is a study participant himself. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Commonwealth University)

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Published on Jan. 24, 2020

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One Comment

  1. Richard G Kensinger January 25, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Based on 40+ yrs. as a clinical psychologist I applaud this initiative! I am not clinically familiar the syndrome of “mild” TBI. I conduct clinical research on combat trauma. I find a great deal of co-morbidity which also includes complex PTSD, compacted grief, and SUD.
    I look forward to this research findings.

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