Invisible Injury: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Medical Uncertainty in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This research explores the production of knowledge about mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Mild TBI describes a closed head injury that alters consciousness. The injury’s lasting effects are debated among clinical disciplines because cellular-level damage is invisible in images of the brain, and mild TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often occur together with overlapping symptoms. This research examines VA doctors’ uncertainty in diagnosing mild TBI, and the institutionally-specific clinical practices that shape scientific evidence about mild TBI and its symptoms. At the same time, this study expands understandings of veterans’ cognitive symptoms by placing them in the broader social context of their post-military lives.