The $700,000 grant from the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) of the U.S. Army Medical Research Materiel Command was secured by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., to address the needs of many service members returning to under-served rural communities. Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton, S.D., is partnering with USD in this project and will provide imaging technology to support the research.

Research in this area is significant given the problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The focus of this current study will be psychological, behavioral and neural correlates of PTSD. The goal of the research is to study brain activity to ultimately facilitate and refine the treatment of PTSD in military populations.

“It is critically important that we continue to learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder and its effect on the brave service members who serve our nation,” Herseth Sandlin said. “I am pleased that the Department of Defense continues to consider this effort a priority and that The University of South Dakota can play a critical role in advancing our knowledge of PTSD and its effects. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress, and DOD to ensure research such as this receives the priority it deserves.”

This project, led by Dr. Gina Forster, Sanford School of Medicine of The University of South Dakota, brings together clinical psychologists Drs. Raluca Gaher and Jeffrey Simons with the USD Psychology Department, with neural imaging expert Dr. Vincent Magnotta of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and neurologist Dr. Xuesheng Feng of the Sioux Falls Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 

“Avera Sacred Heart Hospital is honored to be part of this research program,” stated Pamela J. Rezac, Ed.D, president and CEO of Avera Sacred Heart Hospital. “Our soldiers have given so much and deserve the focused attention that will be received in the study of PTSD. It’s not easy coming back after a tour of duty – and we have seen the losses suffered by our local troops. Hopefully, this research will lead to improved ways to help those soldiers suffering from PTSD.”

The South Dakota National Guard is collaborating with USD and Avera Sacred Heart Hospital to help disseminate information about this research to Guard members throughout the state.  Participation by members of the South Dakota National Guard members is vital to the success of this research project, and will help form future research directions.

According to Laura Jenski, Ph.D., vice president for research at USD, the university has substantial expertise in researching stress and injury, alcohol use, and resilience and recovery. USD faculty in basic biomedical sciences, psychology and biology also have federal grants to pursue research in these areas. She added that the university is home to a federally-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in neuroscience.

“Neuroscience and behavioral science research is a high priority area for USD,” Jenski said. “Collaborations with Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, South Dakota National Guard and Sioux Falls VA Medical Center are essential to bringing this university research into the clinic and to society.”

For more information about the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at USD, please visit the department’s Web site at; or call (605) 677-5370 or e-mail

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