SAN FRANCISCO—Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico (UNM) are comparing supercomputer simulations of blast waves on the brain with clinical studies of veterans suffering from mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) to help improve helmet designs.
The team—led by Paul Taylor and John Ludwigsen of Sandia's Terminal Ballistics Technology Department and Corey Ford, a neurologist at UNM's Health Sciences Center—hopes to identify threshold levels of stress and energy on which better military and sports helmet designs could be based. They could be used to program sensors placed on helmets to show whether a blast is strong enough to cause traumatic brain injuries.
Sufferers of traumatic brain injuries often experience subtle immediate symptoms—or none at all—that may keep them from seeking medical attention. The sensors could alert them to a potential problem, according to the researchers.
Paul Taylor, right, and John Ludwigsen, center, both researchers with Sandia’s Terminal Ballistics Technology Department, and Corey Ford, a neurologist at the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center, discuss their research on traumatic brain injuries. The researchers are comparing supercomputer simulations of the physical effects of blast waves on the brain with Ford's analyses of patients who have suffered such injuries.
Credit: Randy Montoya
"Our ultimate goal is to help our military and eventually our civilian population by providing guidance to helmet designers so they can do a better job of protecting against some of these events we are seeing clinically and from a physics perspective," said Taylor, Sandia's principal investigator on the project. "To do that we've got to know what are the threshold conditions that correlate with various levels of TBI."
The study—now in its fourth and final year—is the only traumatic brain injury research that combines computer modeling and simulation of the physical effects of a blast with analyses of clinical magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of patients who suffer such injuries, according to Taylor.