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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Age Treatments for a New Age of Warfare: Army Seeking Alternative, Holistic Therapy Research Proposals

Noah Shachtman at Wired (and cheers back to you, Noah, for the 'special thanks' mention and link to PTSD Combat) looks at the Army's obviously necessity-inspired opening-up of minds and pocketbooks regarding the use and exploration of alternative treatment options for wounded returning troops:

The military is scrambling for new ways to treat the brain injuries and post-traumatic stress of troops returning home from war. And every kind of therapy -- no matter how far outside the accepted medical form -- is being considered. The Army just unveiled a $4 million program to investigate everything from "spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, [and] yoga" to "bioenergies such as Qi gong, Reiki, [and] distant healing" to mend the psyches of wounded troops. ...

The Defense Department "is dedicated to supporting evidence-based approaches to medical treatment and wants to support the use of alternative therapies if they are proven efficacious," notes a recently-issued request for proposals.

But many of these treatments haven't been held up to much rigorous scientific scrutiny before. So the Army is looking to hand out $4 million in "seedling grants" to "conduc[t] rigorous clinical studies" into all sorts of "novel approaches." Projects "containing preliminary data" will be eligible for up to $1 million. But even "innovative but testable hypotheses without preliminary data" could get as much as $300,000. Proposals are due May 15.

Full Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program announcement for the Military Psychological Health Research – Complementary and Alternative Strategies grant is available online as an MS Word doc. Grant instructions and application forms are available, too.


In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Abstract of the Army's grant proposal:

Funding Opportunity Number: W81XWH-08-PH-TBI
Opportunity Category: Discretionary
Current Closing Date for Applications: May 15, 2008
Funding Instrument Type: Grant Cooperative Agreement
Category of Funding Activity: Science and Technology and other Research and Development
Expected Number of Awards: 10
Estimated Total Program Funding: $4,000,000
Award Ceiling: $1,000,000
CFDA Number: 12.420 -- Military Medical Research and Development
Cost Sharing or Matching Requirement: No

Eligible Applicants
Unrestricted (i.e., open to any type of entity above), subject to any clarification in text field entitled "Additional Information on Eligibility"


Agency Name
Dept. of the Army -- USAMRAA

Description
The Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is soliciting proposals for studies on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in service members dealing with sustainment and treatment for psychological health and promoting healing for traumatic brain injuries in service-members.

The high prevalence of psychoneurological and other brain injuries associated with the current OEF/OIF war effort make it especially important to understand current use of CAM therapies by service-members, and to explore approaches that may be particularly effective in both protecting and treating the injured service-member. The DoD is dedicated to supporting evidence-based approaches to medical treatment and wants to support the use of alternative therapies if they are proven efficacious.

Specific aims of this call for proposals focus on a holistic approach for trauma spectrum disorders, including patients with TBI and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse. With the focus on a holistic approach for trauma spectrum disorders, including patients with TBI and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse, the following delineate several of the areas of interest:

1. Conducting rigorous clinical studies to determine the efficacy of alternative therapies for treating psychological health injuries using techniques such as music, animal-facilitated therapy, art, dance/movement, massage therapy, EMDR program evaluation, virtual reality, acupuncture, spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, yoga and other novel approaches.

2. Identification of patterns of use of CAM therapies to build resilience in military populations.

3. Identification of factors and perceptions associated with use of alternative and complementary therapies by service-members.

4. Studies of mechanisms and efficacy of biologically-based treatments, botanicals, and nutritional supplements for enhancing cognitive function and mood in patients with trauma spectrum disorders, including TBI and/or PTSD, depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse.

5. Studies that examine gender-specific implications and issues related to the use of CAM therapies.

6. Biological mechanisms and efficacy underlying acupuncture for trauma spectrum disorders, including TBI and/or PTSD, depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse, including neuroimaging studies.

7. Identification of the use and efficacy of therapies using bioenergies such as Qi gong, Reiki, distant healing, and acupuncture, especially new biophysical approaches involving instrumentation.

Proposals must provide a clear justification and military relevance for the choice of therapies selected for study. Collaboration with DoD medical researchers at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), clinical research laboratories at military medical centers and VA centers are encouraged and will be considered in the selection of awards.

Studies should be designed to test pragmatic and theoretical components at once; thus, they need to include sham control to separate specific from non-specific effects. Rationale should include why the intervention should have effects across trauma spectrum and evaluate putative mechanisms. Use of primary care and community sites should be accessed and networked into participate.

Two types of proposals will be considered. Individual research proposals containing preliminary data are expected to average $200,000 per year for up to four years of support; no proposal award will exceed $1M in total funding (including indirect costs). Seedling grants proposing innovative but testable hypotheses without preliminary data, will be considered for $300,000 in total funding (including indirect costs), with research to be completed within 18 months. A total of approximately $4,000,000 is available for the portfolio of projects to be funded.

This is great news. Good luck to those who apply!


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