Brotherhood draws veteran to participate in CENC research

The exam room is quiet as a Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC) participant begins to speak. On this particular day, Joe Montanari is recalling his time spent serving the U.S. military and his multiple deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. Memories of the brotherhood and camaraderie he shared with his fellow soldiers wash over him as he recounts stories about his experiences that led to sustaining multiple concussions.

Montanari, a small arms / artillery repairer while serving in the Army and current Administrative and Research Assistant with CENC, was deployed in 1999 and 2001 to Kosovo and in 2004-2005 and 2009 to Iraq. During his time of service, he sustained multiple concussions, including two from boxing and taking cover from a rocket attack. He says he began to notice the effects of his concussions upon completing his second deployment.

“When I returned from my second deployment, I noticed a lot of differences [cognitively], including not being able to concentrate after reading a paragraph,” he said.

For Montanari and others like him, a driving force behind participation in research studies is the idea of brotherhood and the ability to help future soldiers.

“I feel great being able to participate in the study, because I know that I am adding to the data that may aid in treatments of these injuries in future soldiers,” he said.

Studies like those that make up CENC allow Service Members and Veterans to learn more about the blast-related concussions that they or their fellow Service Members may have sustained while serving.  Most of the studies involve blood work, movement, coordination, vision, and balance testing, and an interview about life events that may have resulted in a concussion.

Many Service Members are not immediately evaluated after sustaining a concussion for a wide variety of reasons. However, from his participation in CENC, Montanari has learned just how important it is to be assessed for a concussion post-injury and urges others to follow his advice.

“Tighten your Kevlar and take concussions seriously. They can cause more damage than you think,” he said.

Montanari went on to explain that he would encourage all of his fellow Service Members and Veterans to participate in military research.

“We are a tight group of brothers and sisters that will do anything for each other. That ranges from watching each other’s six to spending an entire day at the VA for a research study to help future vets. I believe other participants just need to get the word out.”

Montanari is available to answer any questions about the mission of CENC by phone at 804-828-2617 or by e-mail at

CENC is a research consortium jointly funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense and is comprised of ten studies at various universities and medical centers across the country. It seeks to fill in the gaps of knowledge about concussion in Service Members and Veterans. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the mission of CENC and exploring our research, please visit