Repeated low-level blast exposure: A descriptive human subjects study

Walter Carr, James R. Stone, Tim Walilko, Lee Ann Young, Tianlu Li Snook, Michelle E. Paggi, Jack W. Tsao, Christopher J. Jankosky, Robert V. Parish, Stephen T. Ahlers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


The relationship between repeated exposure to blast overpressure and neurological function was examined in the context of breacher training at the U.S. Marine Corps Weapons Training Battalion Dynamic Entry School. During this training, Students are taught to apply explosive charges to achieve rapid ingress into secured buildings. For this study, both Students and Instructors participated in neurobehavioral testing, blood toxin screening, vestibular/ auditory testing, and neuroimaging. Volunteers wore instrumentation during training to allow correlation of human response measurements and blast overpressure exposure. The key findings of this study were from high-memory demand tasks and were limited to the Instructors. Specific tests showing blast-related mean differences were California Verbal Learning Test II, Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics subtests (Match-to-Sample, Code Substitution Delayed), and Delayed Matching-to-Sample 10-second delay condition. Importantly, apparent deficits were paralleled with functional magnetic resonance imaging using the n-back task. The findings of this study are suggestive, but not conclusive, owing to small sample size and effect. The observed changes yield descriptive evidence for potential neurological alterations in the subset of individuals with occupational history of repetitive blast exposure. This is the first study to integrate subject instrumentation for measurement of individual blast pressure exposure, neurocognitive testing, and neuroimaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-39
Number of pages12
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016
Externally publishedYes


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