ARLINGTON - Social work and bioengineering
professors at The University of Texas at Arlington are collaborating on
research they think will lead to better treatment for veterans suffering from
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Alexa Smith-Osborne, an
assistant professor in the School of Social
Work, and Hanli Liu, a bioengineering
professor, are marrying their methods of evaluating PTSD and TBI to better
serve veterans who suffer from those conditions.
Lin Li, a doctoral student in bioengineering, sits with the brain scanner attached to his head as another doctoral bioengineering student, Matthew Cloud, and Alexa Smith-Osborne, assistant professor in social work, listen to bioengineering associate professor Hanli Liu, far right, explain how the machine operates.
The veterans research
is just one of many collaborative, multi-disciplinary projects calling the new
Engineering Research Building home. The 234,000-square-foot facility is shared mainly by College
of Engineering and College
of Science researchers
who are exploring new cancer treatments, working to improve detection of deadly
viruses and developing systems to help older adults live independently longer,
among a multitude of projects.
Veteran Project at UT Arlington. It is a clinical intervention trial that
offers free services to help veterans returning to school.
Some veterans were
experiencing learning difficulties that could be associated with the
interactive effects of PTSD and TBI, as well as prior learning disabilities and
co-occurring conditions such as pain, Smith-Osborne said.
“They were also having
delays and difficulty in obtaining prior educational records and updated
comprehensive cognitive and educational assessments,” Smith-Osborne said.
“Scarcity of health resources may limit the availability of such assessments to
the most severely injured veterans served in polytrauma centers.”
Smith-Osborne has set
up a private donor fund to help student veterans pay for such assessments when
they can be provided privately, since they are typically not covered by health
“I’m already utilizing
a range of measures to assess issues affecting veterans’ learning,”
Smith-Osborne said. “However, they are standardized, observational and
self-report measures. I had been looking for low-cost ways to add physiological
data, as well as to provide veterans with more input that would help them
select effective learning strategies while they are waiting to receive their
other records and services.”
That’s where Hanli Liu
enters the research picture with her brain-scanning device in bioengineering.
“We decided we could
get a much better picture of where the veterans are if Alexa’s measures could
be combined with our scanning and mapping of the brain and the cognitive tests
they complete during brain scanning,” Liu said. “We are the only university (that
they know of in the world) that has three of the optical imaging machines.”
Liu said the
brain-scanning device is much easier to use and less costly than using a
functional MRI machine when the patient could spend about 40 minutes in a tube.
The duo hopes to
provide veterans with a better baseline on where they are in learning. They
hope that information also could provide the Veterans Administration and
health-care providers with needed information on how to address these veterans’
cases of PTSD or TBI.
“We hope it leads to
policy changes to expand these types of resources for veterans,” Smith-Osborne
said. “Rapid advances now occurring in cognitive science need to be translated
to practical applications which people can use to reach their life goals.”
Smith-Osborne said that
in addition to supporting educational success for veterans, the research could
help auto accident victims or others who have sustained head injuries.
research is an example of the kind of research that takes place at The
University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate
research institution of nearly 33,000 students in the heart of North Texas.
Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.