Researchers receive funding to explore factors associated with brain health in female military veterans

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A pioneering multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Northumbria University and Imperial College London has received funding for a novel study that will explore the biological, psychological and social factors associated with brain health in female military veterans.

Recent studies have indicated that female veterans show poorer brain health in later life than male veterans and women in the general population.

Dr Tamlin Watermeyer, Assistant Professor of Neuropsychology, Dr Paul Ansdale, Assistant Professor of Physiology at Northumbria University and Dr Chi Udeh-Momoh, Neuroendocrinologist at Imperial College London, have been awarded funding from the Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA) Health. The Innovation Fund, recently launched by the government to advance cutting-edge treatments and technologies to support veterans’ healthcare.

It is hoped that the research findings will help health care professionals provide more effective support and treatment for women adversely affected by military life.

Dr. Watermeyer, a brain, cognitive and psychological health specialist, is co-leading the multi-disciplinary team on the project. Northumbria’s research teams span the departments of Psychology, Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, and Social Work and Education.

Dr. Watermeyer explains the power: “Brain health refers to the overall state of the brain, including the ability to perform various functions effectively and efficiently. It can include biology (hormones, structure), cognition, and emotions (mood, memory, and thinking). And Motor function (muscle). In women, brain health is greatly affected by hormonal events that change over time depending on age and life circumstances, such as transitioning through menopause or experiencing a significant stressful event.”

“Recent studies have highlighted the poorer brain health of female veterans compared to male veterans and female civilians. This indicates the need for increased and early screening of the female veteran population; however, currently health services for veterans are largely geared toward men.” Towards Poorer Brain Health of Female Veterans A better understanding of the underlying psychological, social and biological factors that drive it will help the NHS and other healthcare providers to develop better support and treatment for female veterans.”

The study is now underway and the team is actively seeking to recruit female veterans, male veterans and female civilians age 35 and older to participate in the study. They will be asked questions about their background, temperament and lifestyle and, for veterans, about their experience serving in the military.

Participants will also complete memory and thinking tasks, such as remembering word lists and shapes colors, and provide biological samples, including blood, saliva and hair, that will reveal important information about their health status. Neurological tests will also be used to measure key brain regions involved in movement and sensory function.

Dr. Paul Ansdale, who is co-leading the team and an expert in neurophysiology, said: “We will ask the participants to complete a neural test where we deliver a very short magnetic pulse to the brain and record the response in the muscles of the brain. This will help us understand that Will see if the neural networks carrying signals from the brain behave differently in female veterans and how the nervous system controls different processes such as sensing new information and movement.

Dr Chi Udeh-Momoh, who specializes in translating neuroscience findings to improve clinical outcomes for people with brain diseases that can lead to dementia, added: “This research has exciting potential to benefit the healthcare industry by helping professionals to provide more tailored support for women. .” Veterans whose health may have been adversely affected by their military service. This can improve their quality of life and prevent brain health impairment among other women who wish to pursue a career in the armed forces.”

The team, which includes early career researcher Christina Dodds who served in the British military and Elliott Atkinson who served in the Royal Marines, recently presented the research at the world’s largest dementia research conference – the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

This project does exactly what our Health Innovation Fund is designed to do – help important projects that can make a real impact on the lives of veterans. We know that treatment of many veterans is often male-centric, so this important work will explore the brain health of female veterans. OVA will also publish the Government’s first Women Veterans Strategy in 2024, to ensure the services we provide are best suited to the needs of women veterans.

RT Hon. Johnny Mercer MP, Minister for Veterans Affairs

The work is part of the Female Brain and Endocrine Research (FemBER) Consortium, a research program founded by Dr. Watermeyer and Dr. Udeh-Momoh that calls for more research into women’s brain health. Study recruitment and community outreach is supported by a multi-disciplinary team of Northumbria University academics, including Dr Gill McGill, co-director of Northumbria’s Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Family Research, and Professor Glyn Howatson, an applied physiologist and British Army specialist. , who provided valuable input into the study design and insights into the UK’s armed forces community.

Potential participants who are over the age of 35 and are interested in taking part, please contact Elliott Atkinson: [email protected] This study is for initial screening to see if it is suitable for them. The team is particularly keen to prioritize recruitment of female military veterans at this stage but will note the interest of male veterans and female civilians to be invited at a later stage. Participants will be reimbursed for their time and travel to Northumbria University to take part in the research.

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