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.
As many as 17 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, one congressional study estimates. Nearly 3,300 troops have suffered traumatic brain injury, or TBI, according to statistics assembled last summer. And the lifetime costs of treating these ailments could pile up to as much as $35 billion, a Columbia University report guesses.
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.
"Music, animal-facilitated therapy, art, dance/movement, massage therapy, EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing]program evaluation, virtual reality, acupuncture, spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, [and] yoga," might all be considered worth of the military’s largess. So would "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." Even proposals for wild-sounding "therapies using bioenergies such as Qi gong, Reiki, distant healing and acupuncture" would be accepted…