Protecting Troops From Brain Injuries
A collaborative effort to
mild traumatic brain
injury includes new
imaging techniques, such
as one demonstrated
above, that can highlight
neuron fibers in the
human brain, helping
identify any abnormalities
caused by blast waves.
AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN Afghanistan and Iraq who
walk away from blasts from improvised explosive
devices, or IEDs, aren't always unscathed: Since
2001, more than 125,000 cases of mild traumatic
brain injury, or mTBI, have been reported in the two
In hopes of better protecting the military
personnel deployed there, University of Maryland
researchers have teamed with military experts and
the University of Maryland School of Medicine to
investigate new brain imaging techniques, develop
alternative medical treatments and refine computer
models that can predict the effects of IEDs.
The Department of Defense is especially
interested in better diagnostic methods, says
Davinder Anand, director of the university's Center
for Energetic Concepts Development, which is coordinating
much of the research. If undetected and
untreated, he says, mTBI can lead to anxiety, depression
and memory loss.
Soldiers most often suffer mTBI injuries when
they are violently shaken in vehicles struck by
IEDs, or by the blast wave when devices detonate
near ground troops, so Maryland researchers are
investigating how the blast wave from an IED buried
in mud differs from one covered with fine-grain
sand. They're also studying what rapid air pressure
changes look like striking a Kevlar helmet versus
unprotected soft tissue.
Relying on as little as three grams of explosive
material—which under highly controlled conditions
can represent almost 200 pounds of explosives—
William Fourney, a mechanical engineering professor
at Maryland, is gathering data for scientists at the
nearby Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head.
They, in turn, are building computer simulations
that could lead to preventative measures like special
seats that deflect blast acceleration effects if a
vehicle is hit by an IED.
"The bottom line is we need a better way of
understanding exactly what happens when explosives
detonate," Fourney says. "And by using sound
scientific methods to predict those results, we can
help the military protect its warfighters."-TV
Unplugged & Unhinged
College students cant function
without their media links to the world,
describing going cold turkey for just one
day in the same terms used by drugs
addicts and alcoholics in withdrawal:
"frantically craving," "very anxious," "jittery"
"24 Hours: Unplugged," a study conducted
by the university's International
Center for Media and the Public Agenda,
also found the instant gratification of
texting, Facebook postings and cell phone
calls has dramatically changed how 18- to
22-year-olds maintain their social ties.
A research team led by journalism
Professor Susan D. Moeller, director of
the center, asked 200 students in a media
literacy course to give up cell phones,
laptops, iPods, BlackBerrys, television,
radio and MP3 players last semester, then
blog on private class websites about their
successes and failures.
"The fact that I was not able to communicate
with anyone via technology
was almost unbearable," wrote one.
"Honestly, this experience was probably
the single worst experience I have ever
had," blogged another.
Moeller says the reactions surprised
her research team. "What the students
spoke about in the strongest terms was
how their lack of access ··· meant
that they couldn't connect
with friends who lived close by, much less
those far away."
The study also showed how college
students are getting news in less traditional
ways, relying on text messages,
e-mail, Facebook and Twitter instead of
television and newspapers.
In fact, it found that students hardly
missed their TV sets, but without their
cell phones, their sense of time was
confused. And they were struck by the
inconvenience of having to write by hand,
rather than type.
More encouragingly, students in the
study reported that during the hiatus,
they most missed communicating with ···
their moms. –MAB
Green Walls May Open New Doors
Tilley (above) worked with
University of Maryland
specialist Joe Fiola to
determine the right mix
of vegetation for his
three-year green wall
While ivy-covered brick walls are a tradition
on many college campuses, the plant-covered
façades growing at Maryland's research farm
serve a more significant purpose than just
David Tilley, associate professor of environmental
science and technology in the College of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, is studying
green walls and how they might reduce energy
consumption. His is the only such U.S. research
supported by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.
"I've always been interested in ecosystems
and how they can be used to
address human problems," says
Tilley, whose findings could
eventually be used to determine
credits toward environmental
Commercial green wall
products aren't novel, but
much of the science behind
them has been done in Europe.
Tilley's research may help the industry
promote the walls' money-saving
qualities, as well as their aesthetic appeal, in
"Metrics of the benefits of vegetated green
walls and systems have become mandatory
for the growth of our industry," says Reuben
Freed, chair of the green walls group for Green
Roofs for Healthy Cities and director of research
and project manager for greenscreen, North
America's predominant supplier of green
Greenscreen's product is among those being
tested by Tilley and master's student Jeff Price
'10. In January, they planted eight varieties of
grapes and native plants at the base of 12, 4-by-
8-foot panels. They include rigid, recycled steel
systems; stainless steel cable lattices; stainless
steel flexible nets; and thick manila ropes.
One goal: to determine if there is a correlation
between species that use tendrils, like
grapes, and ones that twine, like honeysuckle,
and how well they climb the façades.
The testing is being done at the Central
Maryland Research and Education Center in
Clarksville, Md., where the team rotates the
different panels onto the southern walls of two
prototype buildings. Vegetation theoretically
cools by reflecting solar radiance or turning it
into water vapor, so each building is covered
with dozens of sensors measuring radiation,
temperature and wind speed. Data are collected
every 10 minutes using a computerized system,
with vital information from "the dead of summer"
used to measure peak benefits.
Price will use mathematical modeling this
fall to scale findings up to a full-size house.
A previous Tilley experiment with green
cloaks—vegetation suspended over a building's
top—offers promise. Cloaks cooled inside
temperatures by 11 degrees during summer,
which would cut energy use by 18 percent, or
$100 to $200, for the typical, 2,000-square-foot
mid-Atlantic home. —KM
Want to learn more?
Join the University of Maryland Alumni Association now to automatically receive Terp magazine and to stay connected to the University of Maryland community.