Waging War on the Brain: Conference Examines Psychological and Neurological Consequences of Military Conflict

89th Annual Meeting of Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease (ARNMD) Co-Organized by NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell

Dec 16, 2009


War is hell, as the old saying goes — with loss of life and limb, destruction of infrastructure and the environment, and devastating costs. Recent biomedical research has shed light on another pernicious consequence of military conflict: psychological and neurological conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. At the same time, researchers have worked to uncover some of the motives and meanings of war.

The 89th Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease (ARNMD), organized by the ARNMD in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and held today at The Rockefeller University, examines the psychological and neurological aspects of war from a variety of perspectives — from the experience of a Marine colonel during wartime and a presentation on "the mind of the terrorist," to a lecture on preventing mass violence given by Weill Cornell Medical College's Dr. David A. Hamburg, a leading expert on genocide.

"In the context of ongoing military conflict and extremist violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, it is ever more important that we work to ameliorate the consequences of war as it affects the physical and mental health of combatants and non-combatants alike. At the same time, we endeavor to better understand and address some of the underlying motivations that perpetuate violence," says Dr. Jack Barchas, conference coordinator and chairman of the ARNMD Board of Trustees, the Barklie McKee Henry Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, and psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Hamburg, the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom and co-writer of the recent documentary "Preventing Genocide"; Dr. Nathaniel Laor, professor of child psychiatry and director of the Cohen-Harris Center for Trauma and Disaster Intervention, Tel Aviv; Dr. Jerrold M. Post, professor of political science at Georgetown University; and U.S. Marine Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, a homicide prosecutor in New York City, author of "Thieves of Baghdad," and recipient of the National Humanities Medal and the Bronze Star.

Panel sessions address cutting-edge research, treatment approaches and public policy issues with the goal of creating an agenda for further inquiry and action. Highlights include the following:

  • Improving treatment for PTSD and related conditions using emerging technologies. Dr. JoAnn Difede, conference coordinator and associate professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of the program for anxiety and traumatic stress at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, will discuss her research into virtual-reality exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder for survivors of the World Trade Center attack and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Treating traumatic brain injury. Moderated by Dr. Timothy A. Pedley, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and neurologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, the panel session will focus on neurological aspects of trauma-related brain injury and ways to assess and treat it.
  • Addressing PTSD and related disorders — including depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse — among veterans and their families. Panelists will offer perspectives on stress, hormones and biological markers in PTSD, and monitoring, screening, referrals and treatment outcomes.

For more information, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS.

The Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease

The Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease (ARNMD) is dedicated to bringing together scientists from the fields of psychiatry, neurology and neuroscience to advance the scientific knowledge and understanding of neuropsychiatry at all levels; to promote the dissemination of information about the nature of scientific discovery and the results and implications of the latest neuropsychiatric research; and to provide an annual conference that presents groundbreaking research in a topical area encouraging the participation and attendance of physicians and trainees in these fields.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer; the synthesis of penicillin; the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S.; the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease; the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth; and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit www.nyp.org and www.med.cornell.edu.

Media Contact:

John Rodgers 212-821-0560