New Texas Study Helps Unravel Gulf War Illness Memory Deficits
Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com
(91outcomes.com) - A new medical research study has not only confirmed memory deficits in ill Gulf War veterans but has provided objective evidence helping to explain the specific source of these memory deficits in the brain.
The University of Texas-Arlington study used sophisticated neuropsychological testing and objective functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine and analyze the memory problems. The study found the memory deficits were related to dysfunction in one specific part of the brain, the hippocampus, a region of the brain central to processing short-term memories into long-term ones -- essentially the key to new memory formation.
The study adds yet another piece to the growing body of scientific evidence objectively confirming and helping to unravel the underlying biological mechanisms of Gulf War Illness (GWI), a debilitating chronic condition that affects an estimated 250,000 (See: IOM, 2010) of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, along with other U.S. forces. Memory loss and confusion were among the earliest symptoms reported by ill Gulf War veterans suffering from the multisymptom illness, who in addition to GWI have been shown to have higher rates of neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.
The new study, led by Dr. Timothy Odegard, was conducted by members of the GWI research team of Dr. Robert Haley, a pioneer in the field of GWI research. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) defunded Haley's research efforts due to a contract dispute, despite its apparent promising nature.
Other studies by Haley's team found evidence of chronic, abnormal blood flow in the brain of GWI patients and suggested that GWI is the result of nerve gas. According to U.S. Department of Defense estimates, at least 140,000 U.S. Gulf War troops were exposed in the days following the end of the 1991 ground war to sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard chemical warfare agents following demolition of Iraqi chemical munitions at an Iraqi munitions complex near Khamisiyah, Iraq.
Other research efforts have implicated pyridostigmine bromide (PB) anti-nerve agent protective pills (NAPP) and potent pesticides (See: RAC, 2008) used during the Gulf War. Several of the implicated chemicals belong to a common class of chemicals called organophosphates.
Much of the current scientific discussion surrounding GWI involves the mechanisms and long-term effects of, and potential treatments for Gulf War veterans' exposures to various neurotoxins, substances that are toxic to the brain and neurological system and can have long lasting -- even lifelong -- neurological and other physiological effects.
Haley has suggested three distinct syndromes among ill Gulf War veterans, though this conclusion remains controversial among other GWI researchers.
Department of Psychology, University Texas Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA.
Roughly 26-32% of US veterans, who served in the first Gulf War, report suffering from chronic health problems ( Golomb, 2008, Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, 105, 4295).
The present study investigated the memory deficits reported by these ill Gulf War veterans (GWV) using a face-name associative memory paradigm administered during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The fMRI data confirmed memory performance on the memory task to be related to the amount of activation in the left hippocampus observed during the study.
In addition, ill-GWV demonstrated decreased memory performance relative to unaffected GWV on this memory test, providing evidence of memory deficits using an objective measure of memory.