Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality for service members in the Iraq and Afghanistan armed conflicts and remain a significant terrorist threat worldwide. Over 400,000 Veterans are estimated to have experienced IED blast-related injury and events such as the Boston Marathon bombing and 2020 industrial explosion in Beirut are evidence that blast exposure is not only confined to the battlefield. As such, blast represents a major potential source of trauma, often resulting in mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI, the “signature injury” of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) that is highly comorbid with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain. This combination is often referred to as the Polytrauma Clinical Triad (PCT) and is a major risk factor for increased health risk behaviours (e.g., impulsivity, aggression, substance abuse/misuse), but treatment options remain limited.
In the first part of my talk, I will cover clinical and pre-clinical data focused on understanding a potential role for the mesolimbic dopamine system in mediating adverse blast outcomes related to reward learning and impulsivity. In the second part of the talk, I will share clinical and pre-clinical data related to alcohol intake and reward and highlight recent hardware and software development for the chronic measurement of polysubstance intake in groups housed mice. Together, results establish a potential underlying neurochemical mechanism for the maladaptive behavioural outcomes following blast trauma. Information gained can help guide clinical and behavioural intervention strategies and future research aimed at significantly reducing negative health-risk behaviours following blast trauma.
If you would like to meet Abigail on the day of the talk, please get in touch with Lauren Burgeno.