Representatives from the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory including Col. Joseph McKeon and Lt. Col. Shean Phelps attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Auburn University's $21M Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Center located in Auburn's Research and Technology Park Feb.4.
USAARL is collaborating with Auburn University and Andrews Institute to develop a Warfighter Resilience, Rehabilitation, and Restoration Initiative. Auburn University partners include the MRI Research Center, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and the Departments of Kinesiology, Psychology and Communication Disorders.
McKeon, USAARL's commander, stated "We look forward to working with an academic institution of Auburn's caliber, especially given their geographic proximity to USAARL at Fort Rucker and Soldier concentrations at Fort Benning, Georgia."
The Warfighter Resilience, Rehabilitation, and Restoration Initiative will focus on applying systems-based approaches currently used for professional athletes to improve Warfighter training, operational performance, injury rehabilitation and return-to-duty following injury. The initiative will use Auburn University's 3 Tesla (T) and 7T MRI scanners to develop MRI technologies and protocols that investigate traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, sensory impairments (i.e., visual, auditory, vestibular), and neck and lower back injuries. The actively shielded, whole-body 7T MRI scanner, the only one of its kind in the United States, will provide unprecedented imaging of the human brain and musculoskeletal system.
The initiative will not only significantly enhance the research capabilities of all partners involved in the collaboration, but it will also result in benefits for the Warfighter. Anticipated benefits include improved Warfighter resilience to both physical and mental injuries, improved operational performance, efficient rehabilitation, and rapid return-to-duty.
According to McKeon, "In addition to the pay-offs for the Warfighter, this collaboration will also open doors for expanding USAARL's educational outreach program. USAARL scientists and engineers will be positioned to serve as adjunct faculty members at Auburn, and we will be able to foster professional relationships with college students and professors by involving them in research at USAARL."