Brandon Alt's transition from combat Marine to college student was stormy -- the Afghanistan veteran fought headaches and pain, memory loss, a bad temper. Advertisement Then came the seizures, knocking him to the ground, paralyzing him for dark, lost stretches of time.
Like many post-9/11 vets, Alt believed his symptoms were related to post-traumatic stress. The infantry Marine had provided security for Army dustoff operations near Marjah, protecting medics and helping retrieve the gruesomely wounded, usually under heavy fire -- a harrowing experience that left its scars. The seizures were a clue, however, that something other than PTSD might be going on in Alt's brain. While seizures can be caused by psychological trauma, they are more commonly linked to a physical problem such as chemical imbalance, tumor or stroke. In Alt's case, they were attributed to a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by the numerous bumps and blast exposure he experienced while deployed.