updated 3/12/2009 4:37:43 PM ET 2009-03-12T20:37:43

A group of doctors and scientists said Thursday the U.S. needs to devise a uniform test for traumatic brain injury to be performed on all troops who are exposed to a blast or other violent event in wartime.

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Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is often referred to as the signature wound of the Iraq war. Roadside bombs, vehicle accidents and other events have left hundreds of thousands of troops with such an injury.

Most are mild, and military medical officials have said an overwhelming majority heal without treatment. But Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the head of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, has said 45,000 to 90,000 troops have suffered more severe and lasting symptoms.

The recommendations to Congress on Thursday came from a conference last fall in Paterson, N.J., sponsored by a congressional task force on brain injuries. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey and Todd Platts of Pennsylvania are chairmen of the task force.

The group suggested that the assessment tool be used in wartime to determine if a soldier should return to duty. It also recommended improvements to traumatic brain injury research, better access to care and more resources for families of troops with TBI.

It asked Congress to spend $350 million on its recommendations to be overseen by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

"We're approaching this from every different angle possible," Pascrell said. "We have a sense of urgency."

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