The U.S. military has a new mobile app in its arsenal to help clinicians diagnose cases of traumatic brain injury in as little as five minutes in almost any setting, including forward-deployed combat environments.

The app, called the Defense Automated Neurobehavioral Assessment (DANA), runs on a variety of mobile platforms and recently received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Once fully validated for battlefield use, Department of Defense officials say the software may be used to assist healthcare providers and to help assess fitness for duty and triage needs. DANA includes a library of standardized cognitive and psychological assessments, with three versions that range from a brief five-minute screen to a 45-minute complete assessment.

“It’s like a brain thermometer,” said Lt. Col. Chessley Atchison, program manager for the Technology Enabled Capability Demonstration: Brain in Combat portfolio of the Combat Casualty Care Research Program, in a written statement.  Using the app like a video game, service members perform a series of baseline on-screen exercises during which both their speed and accuracy are recorded. Some of the factors that may affect reaction time include concussion, dementia, post-traumatic stress, depression and fatigue.

The app’s cognitive and psychological assessment capabilities provide insight into the prevalence of symptoms related to both traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who may have had a serious head injury then participate in a series of both cognitive efficiency tests and self-administered questionnaires. Clinicians then review the results and compare them to the results of the baseline exercises.

Last year, more than 27,000 cases of traumatic brain injury were diagnosed across the U.S. military. That number is almost triple the number of cases diagnosed in 2000, when DOD first began recording traumatic brain injury statistics.


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