News Release

$7.7 million Department of Defense award funds traumatic brain injury research at Ohio State University

Grant and Award Announcement

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Jonathan Godbout


Principle investigator Jonathan Godbout, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the Ohio State College of Medicine and faculty director of Ohio State’s Chronic Brain Injury Program

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Credit: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Neuroscience and psychology researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Neurological Institute will use $7.7 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a deeper understanding of cellular changes that occur after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) to ultimately prevent chronic disturbances in the brain and body over time.

The award will fund four investigative projects over four years that will examine different mechanisms of specialized brain cells knows as microglia, and how they may be involved in the onset and continuation of brain and behavioral dysfunction after TBI.

Once microglia cells develop an exaggerated or heightened response, this can lead to further disruption of brain stability, causing neuropsychiatric complications and neurodegenerative diseases.

“We want to learn more about how these cellular changes are activated during and after an injury, and if there’s way to control their responses. We also need a better understanding of how stress experienced prior to a brain injury can worsen functional outcomes for people who suffer with TBI,” said principle investigator Jonathan Godbout, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the Ohio State College of Medicine and faculty director of Ohio State’s Chronic Brain Injury Program.

TBI is a leading cause of physical and behavior dysfunction and neurodegenerative disorders in the United States, with an estimated 2.5 million Americans sustaining these life-altering injuries each year, according to the Brain Trauma Foundation.

TBI is known to create change on cellular levels in the brain, and many who survive the initial injury go on to face long-term consequences including chronic neuroinflammation, autonomic nervous system dysfunction and neuropsychiatric complications.

Researchers will investigate the role specific immune cells contribute to chronic inflammation and neuronal dysfunction after TBI, with specific focus on:

  • how early life stress-induced microglia priming influences the vulnerability to pediatric TBI.
  • how primed microglia influence impulsivity after TBI.
  • the role microglia priming plays in sleep disruption stress after TBI.

Other key leaders on the research team include Kathryn Lenz, PhD, associate professor of psychology; Cole Vonder Haar, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience and Olga Kokiko-Cochran, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience.

This comprehensive collaborative project brings together an interdisciplinary team across the university, including members with expertise in neuroscience, psychology, animal behavior, electrophysiology and biomedical informatics.

“Through our research, we want to develop innovative, personalized health care and a deeper understanding of how infections, stressors and injury add subsequent immune challenges and psychological stress to people living with TBI,” said Godbout, assistant director of basic research with Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. “Even mild brain injuries can have persistent, long-term effects that impact future health and wellness. We need to better understand, detect, treat and prevent these effects to solve the silent epidemic of chronic brain injury.”

This study is supported by funding from HT9425-23-1-1003, DoD Focused Program 10/01/2023-09/30/2027; Consequences of brain injury on glia-neuron dynamics, neuropathology and neuropsychiatric illness; Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP); Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health Research Program and US ARMY Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC).

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