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The Pentagon’s mad science division has a new way to deal with the 70,000+ troops diagnosed with traumatic brain injury: freeze ‘em.
Darpa, the military’s far-out research arm, is looking for research projects that would create a “therapeutic hypothermia device” to prevent traumatic brain injuries from causing permanent molecular damage to the brain. The idea is based on successful studies that used cortical cooling to treat survivors of strokes and cardiac arrest. According to Darpa’s solicitation, cooling down the brain after trauma can offer “dramatic neuroprotection” that will prevent long-term harm to cognition and motor skills.
So far, Darpa-funded studies suggest that traumatic brain injuries are caused by repeated exposure to blasts, specifically the “supersonic wave” of highly-pressurized air they emit. Within a fraction of a second after impact, brain cells, tissues and blood vessels are stretched, torn and distorted. Over the hours, days and months that follow, altered brain processes create a snowball effect of damage – which is why symptoms often don’t show up until troops come home.