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VISN 17 Center of Excellence


By combining advanced research technologies including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), biochemistry laboratories, and psychophysiological assessments with psychotherapy research, the Center of Excellence (CoE) conducts innovative and multidimensional research to develop new efficient interventions for returning war Veterans experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and suicide, among other mental health problems.


Veterans Gateway Project

The Veterans Gateway Project is a longitudinal research study designed to uncover the root causes of numerous mental health conditions that are affecting the Veteran population and help develop better treatments. By combining neuroimaging data with blood samples and measures of psychosocial functioning, we hope to improve treatments for Veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, depression, chronic pain, and suicidal thinking.

For information about the Veterans Gateway Project, please click here.

Military Transition to Civilian Life

Transitioning out of the military can be a challenging experience associated with stressors, decreased sense of purpose and increased risk for suicide. When service members retire from service, they lose the support and structure of military leadership and camaraderie with no process to reintegrate them into the civilian community. Our program evaluation programs work with transitioning service members to help them rejoin their civilian communities by assisting with housing, employment, educational opportunities, and access to mental health support.

For information about our Veteran Sponsorship Initiative, please see the VSI website.

Brain-based Treatments

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been proven effective in the treatment of depression, with the potential to be a non-invasive and safe treatment for PTSD. Ongoing studies are testing whether brain electrophysiology can be used to treat TBI and PTSD, using functional MRI data to better understand the mechanism of action by which rTMS affects brain circuitry implicated in these disorders.

For information about our current rTMS studies, please click here.

Examination of the Biomarkers and Genetics of PTSD and TBI

Biomarkers are substances in the body that signal the presence of a disease. Their study can lead to improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms of conditions afflicting our Veterans. Ongoing projects look at inflammatory markers and biological mechanisms of TBI and PTSD. This research may ultimately identify targets for novel treatment strategies.

Evaluating and Treating Returning Veterans Experiences

This longitudinal study has been following returning war Veterans since 2010 to evaluate trajectories of symptoms over time and identify factors that have to potential to be targeted in treatment. Currently, the study is also investigating how COVID-19 has impacted Veterans’ well-being and care.

Implementation Science Research

Implementation Science studies the methods and strategies to promote the use of new interventions in healthcare. Our studies investigate how, when, where, and by whom care is delivered and managed to adopt and integrate evidence-based interventions to provide the best quality care for Veterans.

Moral Injury and Moral Elevation in Returning Veterans

Moral Injury refers to unique psychological harm resulting from acting or failing to prevent actions that violate an individual’s most closely held values leading Veterans to feelings of guilt and shame. Moral elevation is the uplifting feeling that inspires us to emulate virtuous behaviors after witnessing them. Our investigators are conceptualizing innovative treatments to address moral injury using moral elevation to target the negative and social effects of trauma-related distress in Veterans.

For more information about moral injury, please see the Moral Injury website.

Treatment for Women Veterans

Women Veterans with a history of military sexual trauma (MST) are at higher risk for mental health challenges. A brief web-based intervention is being tested to reduce health risks and promote healthy behaviors in women Veterans with history of MST, PTSD, Intimate partner abuse, and alcohol misuse.

Brain Connectivity and TBI

Military Veterans commonly suffer lasting effects of blast-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) which disrupt communication across large networks of the brain. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques can be used to go beyond classic severity assessments and identify neurobiologically-informed subtypes of TBI that can predict functional outcomes. This research will enable improved diagnosis and prognosis for Veterans suffering from TBI.