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New Center To Treat Soldiers

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The Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) is a simulator made of a platform with a treadmill that stands in front of a 180-degree screen with 12 motion cameras focusing on the platform where the patient stands.
Natalie Neumann
The Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) is a simulator made of a platform with a treadmill that stands in front of a 180-degree screen with 12 motion cameras focusing on the platform where the patient stands.

By Natalie Neumann

A new center opening this fall in Bethesda, Maryland will help soldiers suffering from psychological health problems, such as post-traumatic stress.

The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) will be a referral facility for service members who don't respond to conventional therapies. At NICoE, the soldiers will receive a comprehensive evaluation of their physical and psychological condition.

One of the rooms in the facility houses CAREN, the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment. It's a platform with a treadmill that stands in front of a 180-degree screen. Twelve motion cameras focus on the platform where the patient stands. Scenes can vary from maneuvering a boat on the ocean to walking through a city.

"I’ve seen guys with bilateral amputations that, you know they’re walking but it’s kind of slow and unbalanced, and with a lot of work and effort they are able to walk, and it’s brilliant," says CAREN Operator Johanna Bell.

Dr. Gerard Riedy, chief of Neuroimaging, says the facility is equipped with the best imaging technology available. He says many soldiers returning from war show no abnormalities in routine brain scans. Those scans usually generate 750 images, but the scans at the center will be more detailed, with 41,000 images.

"It’s going to look at the brain function, it’s going to look at the brain wiring, it’s going to look at the brain blood flow, it’s going to look at the brain chemistry," he says.

Riedy says the scans will be critical for making a diagnosis.

Patients and their families will stay for a two-week diagnosis and care plan. The patients will continue the plan at their home bases. The facility will help soldiers who remain on active duty as well as those returning to civilian life.

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