- Past Research
Grants awarded 2016
The role of anger in PTSD
$27,687 – Dr David Berle, University of Technology Sydney
This project will investigate whether a high degree of anger during treatment for PTSD weakens the response to treatment, and whether persisting anger in the 9 months post-treatment increases the risk of symptoms returning. The findings may inform efforts to improve the social and family relationships for individuals with PTSD; boost productivity; and lower the rate of discharge from the ADF.
Efficacy of creative art therapy in the treatment of PTSD – literature review
$25,000 – Dr Felicity A Baker, The University of Melbourne
A systematic literature review, with narrative synthesis, aims to identify current evidence of the efficacy of therapies such as music, dance and movement, art, and drama in the treatment of PTSD in adults. The project will produce a high quality manuscript for peer review, with the ultimate aim of informing researchers and stakeholders in their understanding of appropriate therapies to address PTSD symptoms and improve quality of life.
Social networks, identity and the mental health of veterans
$49,811 – Professor Dan Lubman, Monash University and Director of Turning Point
The research will put a veteran’s transition to civilian life under the microscope with the view of developing novel treatment approaches and better support. The project will examine the social networks and identities of veterans and investigate how these impact mental health, wellbeing, housing and employment stability and the use of alcohol and other drugs. The aim is to identify existing barriers and facilitate greater social engagement among veterans.
Grants awarded 2015
A trial of N-acetylcysteine for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that hasn’t improved with normal treatment
$50,000 - Professor Richard Kanaan, Chair of Psychiatry, Austin Health, University of Melbourne.
PTSD is very common in the military, and very disabling. The prognosis is poor, with the disorder persisting in most patients, so that 9% of Vietnam veterans continue to suffer with PTSD. Guidelines recommend trauma-focused psychotherapy and SSRIs as first line treatments, but these are only moderately effective, with 30% of patients showing no response, and only a minority being cured. If this project is successful it will demonstrate that NAC – a cheap, well-tolerated, nutraceutical – is an effective adjunct to those treatments, rendering them truly effective, and offering hope of a cure to many thousands of veterans and their families.
Testing a novel psychological treatment to reduce chronic pain, depression, anxiety and associated health outcomes in Defence personnel
$50,000 - Dr Melanie White, School of Psychology and Counselling, Qld University of Technology.
Chronic pain and associated depression, anxiety and trauma symptoms are over-represented in serving and ex-serving Defence personnel, presenting significantly disabling and costly problems for these individuals, their families, and for the ADF as an employer. If successful, this project offers Defence an innovative, evidence-based, low-cost, practical and easily administered tool for treating chronic pain and associated disability, with the potential to be adapted to mobile self-administration, including timely ‘booster treatments’ that ADF members can administer themselves on deployment or in their own homes (reducing barriers to treatment seeking) and to supplement existing therapies as part of a holistic treatment approach.
Development and rollout of an online visual test for bipolar disorder for use in large clinical and genetic studies
$25,000 - Dr Steven Miller, Head, Perceptual and Clinical Neuroscience Group, Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre.
Sleep deprivation and extreme stress are routine exposures for training and serving Defence personnel (warriors) and are also well-known triggers of bipolar disorder (BD). A test that can identify which Defence applicants (recruits) are at risk of developing BD would prevent those at risk being exposed to these environmental BD triggers. This test would therefore reduce the rate of BD in the Defence community. Furthermore, the test’s potential to improve treatment decisions by more accurately distinguishing BD from schizophrenia and major depressive disorder would also directly benefit serving and retired Defence personnel (and family members) who have already developed mental health problems.
Evaluating the effectiveness of non-invasive brain stimulation technique as a treatment for PTSD in an Australian veteran population: A pilot study.
$50,000 - Professor David Forbes, Director, Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common and serious mental health problem in the Defence community that can have a profound impact on the person’s functioning and quality of life, as well as on relationships with loved ones and friends.
Although we have effective treatments for PTSD, there are still many veterans who do not benefit from these approaches. New and innovative treatments are required that not only effectively treat the symptoms of PTSD but that also help to prevent the development of or manage co-morbid disorders such as depression, broader anxiety, suicidality, relationship problems and long term disability that goes along with chronic PTSD.
This study would be the first in the world to explore the effectiveness of a new intervention known as Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS) as a treatment for PTSD. TBS aims to improve the way different parts of the brain that are effected by PTSD communicate with each other, resulting in a reduction in PTSD symptoms as well as improvement in memory and thinking.
Grants awarded 2014
Family involvement in hearing rehabilitation
$35,000 - Dr Nerina Scarinci, School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Queensland
This project will make a difference to the Defence community because it will address the impact of hearing loss on quality of life for both serving and ex-serving ADF members with hearing loss and their families. This is likely to improve their health and well-being by reducing the negative consequences of communication breakdown, including social isolation, depression, and poor mental health. This project aims to use a family-centered approach to: 1) increase the uptake of hearing interventions to address these negative consequences; and 2) increase the effectiveness of interventions, such as hearing aids, when members of the Defence community make the decision to seek treatment.
Profiling injuries in Army Reserve personnel
$34,931 - Dr Robin Orr, Bond Institute of Health and Sport, Bond University
Information on the rates, types and mechanisms of injuries suffered by Army Reserve personnel will be captured and compared to those of full time personnel. Based on this information, the Army will be able to identify or develop appropriate injury risk management and prevention strategies to mitigate injuries and enhance Reserve personnel rehabilitation. Such strategies might include, for example, optimizing physical conditioning approaches, or changes to physical employment standards. Success in this area will support both the physical health and wellbeing of individual reserve members, and so also the wellbeing of their families, and preserve the Army Force and its capabilities.
An investigation of the sleep factors that underpin posttraumatic nightmares of PTSD
$50,000 - Dr Andrea Phelps, Aust Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne
The aim of this study is to investigate the sleep of veterans who experience posttraumatic nightmares. We want to determine the stage of sleep in which different types of nightmares occur and the relationship between posttraumatic nightmares and any co-morbid sleep disorders, such as REM behavior disorder and obstructive sleep apnea. Improved understanding of the relationship between sleep factors and posttraumatic nightmares will lead to more effective tailored treatments, giving rise to opportunities for prevention and early intervention.
Detection and mitigation of hearing loss in the ADF
$54,546 - Dr David Sly, Dept of Otolaryngology, University of Melbourne
Hearing loss is the most widespread and poorly recognised health issue affecting soldiers. Unfortunately, current hearing tests are poor at detecting hearing loss from excessive noise exposure until quite advanced. In this project, through existing and newly gathered hearing test data in ADF personnel, we will develop better tests to detect hearing loss and incorporate these tests into our custom diagnostics device. The research will aid early diagnosis and decision making related to hearing loss and will result in improved soldier capability, safety, potentially fewer casualties, and improved immediate medical treatment and long-term health for ADF personnel.
Computer game technology for calculating muscle and knee joint forces following knee reconstructive surgery
$50,000 - Dr Adam Bryant, Dept of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne
Debilitating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common amongst physically active ADF personnel. Reconstructive surgery is expensive and the extended period of post-ACL reconstruction (ACLR) rehabilitation means that physical function – and a return to full work duties - is restricted for more than 6 months. Moreover, the majority of ACLR patients will show signs of early knee osteoarthritis (OA) – a painful and debilitating condition for which there is no cure. Our project will clarify the role that muscles play in knee joint degeneration and will lead to the development of exercise interventions for ADF personnel (and others worldwide) designed to maintain ACLR knee joint health. Given the widespread availability of portable gaming technologies, there exists the future possibility for ADF clinicians – wherever they may be located in Australia or the world - to upload diagnostic test data onto a dedicated server for processing in software developed for this project. This will enable ACLR patient-specific prescription of exercises.
Grants awarded 2013
Developing material technology to prevent infection to injured soldiers
$49,665 - A/Prof Andrea O'Connor, University of Melbourne
Excessive tissue damage can lead to very high rates of post-injury infection and death. The high rate of infection is associated with medical devices inserted to stabilise injuries and restore physiological functions. This research aims to develop new material processing technologies that use non-drug antimicrobial metallic nanoparticles to provide protection against biofilm formation and infection in wounds. This will directly improve the treatment to injured soldiers.
Creating custom hearing test devices for ADF
$50,000 - Dr David Sly, University of Melbourne
Hearing loss is a common problem in ADF personnel and early detection of hearing loss would improve the safety of soliers. This research is in the development of a portable, low cost device capable of providing state-of-the-art hearing tests in the field. The device will be operable in a relatively noisy environment and will connect wirelessly with an iPad or tablet. The ability to test the hearing of deployed soliers on active duty will improve safety, potentially reduce casualties, allow for more timely treatment of hearing loss and improve the long-term health outcomes for ADF personnel.
Designing the combat helmet to counter complex battlefield threats
$95,388 - A/Prof Peter Sin Lee, University of Melbourne
The researchers will use a computational biomechanical model to develop new design guidelines for a combat helmet that will more effectively protect soldiers against traumatic brain injuries. The model will generate a new capability to relate the types of threats and helmet designs to brain injury risk. This will inform Defence in its helmet acquisition programs.
Develop treatments for sleep difficulties in returned military personnel
$49,968 - A/Prof Gerard Kennedy, Victoria University
Sleep difficulties can lead to poorer mental health outcomes if left untreated. This research will compare two treatment alternatives (cognitive behavioural therapy and bright light therapy) against a control group that receives sleep education only. Sleep and mood outcomes will be compared across the two treatment groups and the control group prior to and after a six-week intervention, and then again several months later. The findings will inform the treatment of returning personnel and assist in minimising ongoing mental health issues.
Does the PARTY (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth) program reduce alcohol-related harm in naval trainees?
$300,000 over 3 years - Prof Jeffrey Rosenfeld, National Trauma Research Institute, The Alfred, Monash University
The Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth program (PARTY) is a trauma prevention and health promotion initiative operating since 2009. It provides young people with 'behind the scenes' access to a major trauma unit to show them the potential consequences of risk‐taking behaviour and poor social choices. Specific programs for Navy trainees have been operating since 2011, with repeat alcohol-related incidents by program participants low. The booster grant will enable more robust research, using a validated screening tool and controlled trials with ‘at risk’ naval trainees. The new on-base program format has the potential to be rolled out across other Defence establishments around Australia.
Future soldier rehabilitation: A next generation brain-computer interface for robotic limb control
$154,824 - Dr Tom Oxley, University of Melbourne
Dr Oxley's team has developed a world-first implantable neural recording system, implanted via angiography (instead of more invasive brain surgery). The researchers have established strong collaborations with several USA and Australian Defence bodies and are making radical advancement in the control of prosthetic limbs. The booster funding will continue the momentum of the research with a view to improved rehabilitation and quality of life for soldiers requiring prosthetic limbs.
Grants awarded 2012
Blood circulation in the brain after head injury
$29,414 - Judith Bellapart-Rubio, University of Queensland
Victims of traumatic brain injury often lose much blood resulting in dangerously low levels of oxygen reaching the brain. Studies have shown that blood transfusion benefits brain oxygenation and that the more anaemic the patient, the greater the benefit of a blood transfusion.The aim of this study is to compare the state of blood circulation between the injured hemisphere and the non‐injured hemisphere during different degrees of anaemia. The researchers hope to distinguish changes in microcirculation at different times post injury.This will confirm that processes such as blood transfusion and its optimal management should be commenced sooner rather than later in soldiers sustaining brain injury, in order to improve the neurological and health outcomes.
Measure success of program to reduce alcohol intake in Navy trainees
$50,000 - Russell Gruen, Monash University
The Prevent Alcohol and Risk‐related Trauma in Youth program (PARTY) has been operating at The Alfred, Melbourne, since 2009. It provides 15-19 year olds with 'behind the scenes' access to a major trauma unit to provide insights to the potential consequences of risk‐taking behaviour and poor social choices. Two programs have already been conducted with HMAS Cerberus trainees.This project is to run two more PARTY programs with Navy recruits, then follow the participants from all four programs over the following 12 months to measure their involvement in alcohol‐related incidents. The number of 'at-risk' incidents will be measured against a control sample that did not attend the PARTY program.
Improving platelet freezing products
$70,000 - Lacey Johnson, Red Cross Blood Service
Platelets are cells within the blood that help to prevent bleeding. Platelet transfusions can be life‐saving for patients bleeding after surgery or trauma. However, the storage life of platelets is only five days at room temperature. New technology allows platelets to be frozen and extends the storage time to at least two years. However, platelets must be thawed in a solution (usually plasma) and this delays the transfusion process by up to 30 minutes.This study aims to determine whether the use of alternative solutions results in faster availability and better quality platelets than those prepared in thawed plasma. This has implications for more timely, potentially life-saving platelet transfusion.
Effect of head injuries on brain in Australian troops in Afghanistan
$87,310 - Alexander McFarlane, Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies
It is believed the incidence of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) has increased in recent years due to the increase in improvised explosive devices used in combat. This may explain the reported symptoms of dizziness, headaches and trouble with concentration in soldiers returning from combat. Accurate diagnosis is complicated due to these symptoms also being shared with psychiatric disorders such as PTSD and depression. This study will use a unique battery of tests to measure change in brain information processing stems to determine the impact of mTBI.The project is uniquely placed to resolve the dilemma of differentiating the impact of minor head injury from PTSD and depression also caused by exposure to life threatening blasts.
Preventing bone and muscle injury during Army recruit training
$263,078 over 3 years - Belinda Beck, Griffith University
Lower limb injuries are the cause of the greatest number of days lost to military training and represent one of the largest associated costs to Defence. Bone injuries take the longest to heal and are the most common cause of medical discharge from the Army. This project proposes a conditioning program prior to recruit training, with a view to reducing the rate of injury. Stage 1 will involve a retrospective audit of injuries over the past five years at the Kapooka training centre. Stage 2 will examine the effect of a four-month targeted musculoskeletal pre-conditioning program on the rate of injuries. The relationship of an individual's physical and behavioural characteristics will also be evaluated.
Grants awarded 2011
Does Vitamin D deficiency account for musculoskeletal injury during basic training?
$33,477- Belinda Beck, Griffith University
Bone and muscle injuries sustained during basic Army training place enormous economic pressure on the ADF. Vitamin D is vital to musculoskeletal health, but deficiencies in the Australian population are now increasingly recognised. This pilot study aimed to measure circulating levels of vitamin D in recruits to the Kapooka Army Recruit Training Centre and examine the relationship between those levels and the incidence of musculoskeletal injury during basic training.
The role of diagnostic imaging in identifying appropriate strategies for heart failure treatment
$50,000 - Geoff Currie, Macquarie University
People with severe heart failure receive an implantable cardioverter/defibrillator (ICD). Given the expense of the device, there is a pressing need to provide more accurate and reliable identification of those likely (or not) to benefit from an ICD. The sample population will undergo baseline evaluation with the imaging equipment with a one-year follow up to document cardiac events.
How changes in the DNA determine if someone develops chronic pain
$34,657 - Rainer Haberberger, Flinders University
Pain is very individual and one person experiences more pain than another to the same stimulus. The researchers have a theory that differences in the control of specific genes in nerve cells underlie the differences in pain. The data will build the necessary basis for the specific use of gene-controlling molecules for the treatment of chronic pain.
Structural factors affecting long term outcomes of acute knee injuries
$47,000 - David Hunter, University of Sydney
Acute anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury predisposes people to accelerated onset and progression of osteoarthritis. The study will compare surgical and non-surgical treatment, analysing the effect on overall clinical and structural outcome. The findings will lead to an improvement in triage of new injuries and optimal treatment selection for better long term outcomes for people suffering an acute knee injury.
Investigating a visual test for bipolar disorder
$49,986 - Steven Miller, Monash University
This project aims to characterise a visual test - binocular rivalry rate - that appears to satisfy several criteria for being a risk indicator for bipolar disorder. Accurate identification of prospective ADF recruits would avoid exposing at-risk applicants to sleep deprivation and stress, thus preventing triggering bipolar disorder. In addition, serving and discharged personnel who have developed symptoms of mental illness would benefit from accurate diagnosis and more appropriate treatment choices.
Developing a scaffold to enhance repair of injured skeletal muscle
$99,598 over 2 years - Danielle Dye, Curtin University
Military personnel wounded by gunshots or blasts often sustain injury to a skeletal muscle that involves a large amount of tissue. These types of injuries are not easily repaired because the reamining muscle cannot grow across the gap, leaving the victim with a permanent disability. It is hoped that by inserting a scaffold in the gap between the remaining muscle will help guide and support regenerating muscle fibres to form a bridge. This project aims to characterise a material for the scaffold that is strong, elastic and biocompatible to support the growth of muscle cells.
Musculoskeletal conditions and related psychological conditions in Australian Gulf war veterans
$59,860 - Helen Kelsall, Monash University
This study compares the prevalence of reported doctor-diagnosed or treated musculoskeletal disorders (such as arthritis, back, neck and joint problems and soft tissue disorders) with associated psychological disorders (depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder) in Gulf War veterans and a military comparison sample. The findings will have important implications for prevention, detection, treatment, management and rehabilitation of veterans and Defence personnel.
Repair of damaged tissue
$198,380 over 2 years - Anthony Weiss, University of Sydney
Despite improvements in burn injury treatment, burn survivors still suffer from excessive scarring and skin contractures which substantially compromise their health and quality of life. This research will focus on further testing of the synthetic human elastin sheets to repair damaged human skin developed in the laboratory. It will also look at refining the physical and construction methodology; quantifying their efficacy in controlling tissue contraction; and assessing their cell interactions and integration into living tissue.