Monday, December 30, 2013

NIH: Brain may flush out toxins during sleep

Editor's note:  Unrefreshing sleep and memory loss have been frequently reported Gulf War Illness symptoms.  Now, and NIH-funded study shows an even greater interrelationship between sleep and memory.  

Perhaps even more important for Gulf War Illness is the discovery that the brain appears to be cleansing itself of toxic molecules during sleep.

Gulf War Illness researchers and those who follow GWI research may find value in these important recent findings.




Brain may flush out toxins during sleep

NIH-funded study suggests sleep clears brain of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration
A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.
“Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and a leader of the study.
For centuries, scientists and philosophers have wondered why people sleep and how it affects the brain. Only recently have scientists shown that sleep is important for storing memories. In this study, Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues unexpectedly found that sleep may be also be the period when the brain cleanses itself of toxic molecules.
Their results, published in Science, show that during sleep a plumbing system called the glymphatic system may open, letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain. Dr. Nedergaard’s lab recently discovered the glymphatic system helps control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Image of a mouse brain
Scientists watched dye flow through the brain of a sleeping mouse.Courtesy of Nedergaard Lab, University of Rochester Medical Center.
“It’s as if Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues have uncovered a network of hidden caves and these exciting results highlight the potential importance of the network in normal brain function,” said Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS.
Initially the researchers studied the system by injecting dye into the CSF of mice and watching it flow through their brains while simultaneously monitoring electrical brain activity. The dye flowed rapidly when the mice were unconscious, either asleep or anesthetized. In contrast, the dye barely flowed when the same mice were awake.
“We were surprised by how little flow there was into the brain when the mice were awake,” said Dr. Nedergaard. “It suggested that the space between brain cells changed greatly between conscious and unconscious states.”
To test this idea, the researchers inserted electrodes into the brain to directly measure the space between brain cells. They found that the space inside the brains increased by 60 percent when the mice were asleep or anesthetized.
“These are some dramatic changes in extracellular space,” said Charles Nicholson, Ph.D., a professor at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and an expert in measuring the dynamics of brain fluid flow and how it influences nerve cell communication.
Certain brain cells, called glia, control flow through the glymphatic system by shrinking or swelling. Noradrenaline is an arousing hormone that is also known to control cell volume. Similar to using anesthesia, treating awake mice with drugs that block noradrenaline induced unconsciousness and increased brain fluid flow and the space between cells, further supporting the link between the glymphatic system and consciousness.
Previous studies suggest that toxic molecules involved in neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells. In this study, the researchers tested whether the glymphatic system controls this by injecting mice with labeled beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and measuring how long it lasted in their brains when they were asleep or awake. Beta-amyloid disappeared faster in mice brains when the mice were asleep, suggesting sleep normally clears toxic molecules from the brain.
“These results may have broad implications for multiple neurological disorders,” said Jim Koenig, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS. “This means the cells regulating the glymphatic system may be new targets for treating a range of disorders.”
The results may also highlight the importance of sleep.
“We need sleep. It cleans up the brain,” said Dr. Nedergaard.
This work was supported by grants from the NINDS (NS078167, NS07830, NS028642).
For more information about neurological disorders and the latest neuroscience research:
NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The NINDS mission is to reduce the burden of neurological disease – a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs,
NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®


Xie et al “Sleep initiated fluid flux drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain.” Science, October 18, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1241224

Sunday, December 22, 2013

DAVID WINNETT: "Persian Gulf Warriors - Left for Dead"

"Persian Gulf Warriors - Left for Dead"

For two decades and more their government continually said;
"This illness is all in their heads,”
The Veterans who served were not being heard,
Their lives, their livelihoods, their families as well; their greatest dreams were literally going to hell,
Unbearable pain from toe to head,
Profound fatigue, their legs feeling like lead,
Eventually these Veterans began to understand,
They'd been abandoned and left for dead,
Beyond the pain and misery their illness brought to every waking hour,
By far the most pain derived was coming to grips with the emotional hurt inside,
To have lived and believed in the warrior creed that no one is left behind,
When the warrior finally understands the emptiness that's hidden behind often quoted slogans meant to entice new recruits,
"Semper Fi", "The Few, the Proud", "An Army of One", and "No One Left Behind",
When the truth emerges, when they're finished and have no further use for you,
It's out the gate you go,
"We wish you the best, you passed the test, a farewell and a hearty goodbye",
But woe is the warrior who later dares to connect unusual illness to wartime exposures; all manner of toxins, chemical and biological weaponry, medicines unapproved for human use and more,
How dare that warrior complain too loud,
Why doesn't the warrior follow procedure; suck up the pain, and die obediently proud,
Act like a warrior, be loyal and true, deal with your pain, your government is truly counting on you,
Don't give up hope, but above all else, don't you dare rock the boat,
It's all in your head, your imagination gone wild, we've seen this before,
Be a good little warrior, accept the consequence of going to war,
Whatever you do, never believe what they said; that your government doesn't care; that we've left you for dead,
We'll always be there, to you ‘til the end we'll always be true,
Just follow procedure; don't call us, we'll call you......

David K. Winnett, Jr. 


Friday, December 20, 2013

Gutted Research Advisory Committee to Meet in January: Public Call-In Information Provided

( - The Congressionally chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses (RAC) has released public call-in information for its upcoming meetings in Washington, DC, on January 7-8, 2014.

The call-in number for the RAC meeting is 800-767-1750, and the Participant Code is 35378 followed by the # key.

According to the RAC's agenda, most of the January meetings will be taken up by committee discussion on its upcoming report.  

There will also be two medical research updates by the research team of Dr. Nancy Klimas, based at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.  The treatment-focused Florida Gulf War Illness research consortia was funded through a substantial grant from the GWI Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).  A second GWI CDMRP-funded research consortia, based at Boston University, is headed by Dr. Kim Sullivan, who also serves as the RAC's assistant scientific director (though is not presenting at the upcoming meeting).  Dr.'s Klimas and Gordon Broderick are scheduled to present their updates on Jan. 7.  

Recent staff-driven changes retaliating against RAC's outspoken advocacy for ill Gulf War veterans included VA's gutting of the treatment-focused mission, scope, structure, and composition of the RAC, and narrowing the RAC's focus to VA-only research.  However, Dr. Melissa Forsythe, COL (Ret.), program director for the GWI CDMRP, housed under the U.S. Army's Material and Medical Research Command (USAMMRC), has been scheduled by the RAC to provide a CDMRP update to the RAC, also on Jan. 7.  

The VA is also scheduled to provide a research update on its own "Gulf War" research portfolio.  The VA has been under fire in recent years for dramatically cutting its Gulf War research budget, improperly bulking up its "Gulf War research" portfolio with millions of dollars of non-GWI research, and gutting and whitewashing a first-ever Gulf War Illness Research Strategic Plan developed by a consensus of three VA advisory committees.  

In June, all the Gulf War veterans on the panel walked out of the last RAC meeting in protest of VA's  mishandling of Gulf War Illness research and sweeping changes to the RAC.  VA inaction on those concerns led veteran panel members Marguerite Knox (LTC, ARNG) and Anthony Hardie to resign in protest, "rather than continuing to serve on a  VA committee that VA continues to ignore."  

Among the VA-selected replacements is Jim Bunker, a lighting rod of controversy in the Gulf War veteran community and who is unopposed to VA's sweeping changes to the RAC.   

-Anthony Hardie,

Monday, December 16, 2013

Georgetown University to Study Post-Exertional Malaise using NIH Funding

SOURCE:  ProHealth

Georgetown University to Study Post-Exertional Malaise

  [ 11 votes ]   [ Post a Comment ] • December 15, 2013
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 previous articlenext article 

Georgetown University to Study Post-Exertional Malaise. Dr. James Baraniuk
Dr. James Baraniuk
Editor's Comment: James Baraniuk made headlines last March when he discovered the first physical evidence of Gulf War Illness. (Read about it HERE.) He found that in Gulf War vets the nerve fibers that connect brain areas involved in the processing and perception of pain and fatigue were not working properly. Further research revealed atrophy in the brain stems of some vets, causing irregular heartbeat. Another group showed atrophy in the regions of the brain controlling pain perception. (Read more HERE.)
Dr. Baraniuk believes that patients with ME/CFS have similar brain anomalies, and that these can be demonstrated using functional MRIs (fMRI), a brain scanning technique that measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow. In this study, he plans to use fMRIs to measure brain changes in ME/CFS patients after exercise, thereby pinpointing the precise areas of the brain that produce post-exertional malaise (PEM) and providing an objective means of identifying subgroups.

Dr. Baraniuk's project was awarded $335,300 by the NIH. The study began in September 2013, and will end in July 2018.


Fatigue, widespread pain and tenderness are common findings in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and allied disorders such as Gulf War Illness (GWI) and Fibromyalgia (FM). In addition, they share sleep alterations, diverse nociceptive complaints, migraine, and systemic hyperalgesia. This overlap suggests that these syndromes share specific mechanisms of neural pathophysiology.

Central sensitization is a logical explanation for their pain complaints but has been difficult to explain at the neuronal level. One of the cardinal clinical features of FM, GWI and CFS is "exertional exhaustion". Exercise, cognitive or other stressors induce a relapse of symptoms that may be immediate or can be delayed up to 24 hours. Although studies have found changes associated with exercise in CFS, the causal relationship between the brain and the aberrant response to exercise are unknown. Furthermore, changes that predict the transition to exertional exhaustion have not yet been identified.

We developed a novel exercise stress test, fMRI, neurocognitive testing strategy to study this phenomenon in GWI subjects who met 1994 CFS criteria. We believe the outcomes can be generalized to CFS, and form the basis for a new understanding of this disease.

Hypothesis: Exercise induces cognitive, somatosensory and autonomic dysfunction that are common features of CFS, GWI, & FM. Axonal alterations may be responsible for the neuropathology
  • (SPECIFIC AIM 1). The exercise stressor disrupts vulnerable compensatory neural mechanisms to reveal two autonomic and cognitive phenotypes via fMRI
  • (SPECIFIC AIM 2). Axonal dysfunction in FM can be identified from functional connectivity studies linked to specific dysregulated neurotransmitters of the brain
  • (SPECIFIC AIM 3). Corollary: CFS neuropathology can be modeled based on exercise-induced outcomes of GWI subjects.
Our integrated exercise & fMRI protocol identified the novel finding of significantly increased axial diffusivity (AD) in specific white matter tracts by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) that was predictive of GWI status compared to controls. GWI groups also met CFS criteria.

Next, we found that exercise perturbs neurophysiological brain networks that led to 2 GWI phenotypes that were associated with exercise induced changes in autonomic control, white matter integrity, cortical and brainstem atrophy, and brain blood flow dynamics. Baseline studies showed limited cross-sectional "static" differences, but the exercise stressor revealed causal and significant "dynamic" alterations of neural processes.

We propose that CFS subjects will display a comparable dichotomy of objective findings. Identification of CFS subgroups would begin the process of defining objective neuropathological mechanisms in CFS. These objective outcomes may define specific CFS phenotypes and help explain the heterogeneous presentation of this illness. Conversely, identification of other coherent patterns may provide new objectively defined criteria for CFS. These mechanisms can lead to objective diagnostic tests and identification of new targets for treatment.

Public Health Relevance Statement
An exercise challenge - fMRI study in subjects who met criteria for both Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Gulf War Illness revealed:
  • (A) significant differences in white matter integrity in specific brain tracts that distinguished CFS/GWI from control subjects, and
  • (B) two potential illness phenotypes based on significant differences in autonomic, neurocognitive, brain blood flow, and other purely objective outcomes.
These exercise-induced alterations reveal mechanisms of CFS neuropathology, and provide opportunities for a new diagnostic test and insights into targets for development of drugs and other treatments.

SourceNIH Project Reporter, Project Number:1R01NS085131-01
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NSU Gulf War Illness Consortium to Investigate Biomarkers, Pathways Aimed at Treatment

SOURCE:  Nova Southeastern

NSU researchers receive $4.1 million grant from DOD to investigate Gulf War illness

November 19th, 2013
Nova Southeastern University (NSU) President and CEO George L. Hanbury II, Ph.D., recently announced that a NSU research team led by Mariana Morris, Ph.D., and Nancy Klimas, M.D., was selected by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as one of two DoD Gulf War Illness Research Program Consortium awardees.
The award includes a $4.1 million grant to fund NSU's research project titled "Understanding Gulf War Illness (GWI): An Integrative Modeling Approach." The research will be housed in the Institute for Neuro Immune Medicine, part of NSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine.
"Projects like this help us fulfill our core value to conduct research that not only advances human knowledge, but makes a real difference for mankind," said Hanbury.
The consortium combines leading scientific researchers with expertise in basic and clinical research along with those with expertise in stress response and heart function models, genomics, computational models that isolate therapeutic targets, and guide drug development, formulation and testing.
"This grant allows us to find ways to help hundreds of thousands of men and women who risked everything to serve their country and are now facing adverse health effects," added Gary S. Margules, Sc.D., NSU vice president for research and technology transfer.
"This consortium provides an opportunity to advance our understanding of Gulf War Illness through discovery of biomarkers to more accurately diagnose and treat this syndrome," said Col. Wanda Salzer, M.D., director of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). "Working as an integrated team, the scientists, clinicians, and veterans at these accomplished organizations will be able to establish synergy and collectively develop research strategies which may unlock the pathways leading to the regulatory dysfunction in Gulf War Illness."
Col. Salzer added that the long-term goal of the CDMRP GWI research program is the investment in a lasting infrastructure of relationships among the participating organizations fostering continuing research collaborations and future clinical trials focused on GWI.
GWI is a medical condition that affects veterans and civilians who were exposed to a number of dangers, including chemical weapons, during the 1991 Gulf War. Symptoms can include chronic headaches, widespread pain, cognitive difficulties, debilitating fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory symptoms, and other abnormalities that are not explained by established medical diagnoses or standard laboratory tests. At least a quarter of the nearly 700,000 soldiers who fought in the Gulf War suffer from GWI, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.
"Our goal is to develop a better understanding of GWI and understand specific causes so we can find treatments to address these causes, rather than focus on the symptoms," said Klimas. "This consortium will integrate our clinical understanding of the disease process with basic research efforts using a novel mathematical model."
It has been established that GWI is caused by a disruption in normal cell signaling that results in disabling symptoms including fainting, low blood pressure, fatigue, and pain. This is primarily due to disruptions in normal immune, cardiovascular, and hormone signaling.
However, the exact cause of this disruption is not well understood. The goal of the consortium is to pinpoint the causes of GWI using a multidisciplinary approach. The project will involve integrating basic and clinical research using a computational systems biology method to correlate data between the physiological compartments and levels of biology from basic models to human patients. This will allow them to tailor treatment more effectively using drugs already approved for other illnesses.
At the end of the four-year study, the consortium plans to complete early studies in human patients and be able to pursue larger-scale clinical trials for further drug testing.
"By increasing the understanding of the reasons for GWI, our consortium will advance the diagnosis and treatment of the disease," said Morris. "Specifically, our more detailed understanding of the dysfunction involved in GWI would greatly increase the speed to identify targets for improved diagnosis as well as selection and testing of more specific treatments over the longer term that will address the causes of disease."
The consortium consists of co-principal investigators:

  • Mariana Morris, Ph.D., NSU professor and director of Gulf War research, and 
  • Nancy Klimas, M.D., director of NSU COM's Institute for Neuro Immune Medicine; 
  • Gordon Broderick, Ph.D., NSU Center for Psychological Studies; 
  • Travis Craddock, Ph.D., assistant professor, NSU Center for Psychological Studies; NSU-COM's Institute for Neuro Immune Medicine genomics core, and 
  • Mary Ann Fletcher, Ph.D., NSU-COM's Schemel Professor for Neuro Immune Medicine. 

The team is affiliated with the research service of the Bruce W. Carter Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Miami VA Healthcare System. Klimas is also affiliated with the VA's medical service.
Provided by Nova Southeastern University

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Low-Dose Naltrexone Decreases Anxiety, Pain, in Patients with Fibromyalgia

 Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by chronic widespread pain often with other symptoms, is "presumptive" for the purposes of VA service-connected disability claims for veterans with Persian Gulf service anytime since Aug. 2, 1990.  



Low-Dose Naltrexone Decreases Anxiety, Pain, in Patients with Fibromyalgia

SAN DIEGO, CA—Low-dose naltrexone may be an effective, highly tolerable, and inexpensive treatment for patients with fibromyalgia, according to results of a prospective, open-label study presented at the 2013 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting.
Fibromyalgia has been classified as a “central sensitivity syndrome” mediated by centrally acting proinflammatory cytokine activity, which can cause symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Noting that a significant number of patients with fibromyalgia do not respond adequately to currently available therapies, Samy Metyas, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, and colleagues administered naltrexone 3mg at nighttime to 25 patients—24 females and 1 male—diagnosed with fibromyalgia based on American College of Rheumatology criteria. The dose could be titrated to a maximum of 4.5mg. Patients were permitted to continue pregabalin, milnacipran, or duloxetine.
Primary outcome measure was the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQR) at Month 3; adverse reactions were also recorded.
Of the 22 patients completing the study, 7 (32%) remained on naltrexone monotherapy throughout the study. At Month 3, a 19.5% overall improvement in FIQR was reported. Eleven patients (50%) had an average of a 41% improvement in FIQR.
“The patients reported decreases in anxiety, pain, and sleeping habits from baseline,” Dr. Metyas noted.
Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. They hypothesized that low-dose naltrexone—an opioid-receptor antagonist used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence—“causes transient blockade of opioid receptors centrally, resulting in a rebound of endorphin function which may attenuate pain in fibromyalgia.”
Further randomized controlled trials and larger studies are needed to further assess the efficacy of naltrexone in fibromyalgia, the investigators concluded.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Las Vegas Metro to Pay $1.5M in Police Killing of Disabled Gulf War Veteran

Source:  8 News Now, Las Vegas

Las Vegas Metro to Pay $1.5M in Deadly Shooting of Gulf War Veteran

Posted: Oct 28, 2013 1:15 PM EDTUpdated: Oct 28, 2013 7:04 PM EDT
LAS VEGAS -- The wife of Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson was awarded a $1.5 million settlement for the officer-involved shooting death of her husband.
[Las Vegas] Metro's Fiscal Affairs Committee approved the settlement Monday morning. Rondha Gibson said she will use the money to buy a home and start a foundation in her husband's name.
"He'll always be a brave man and I won't ever see him as anything else," Rondha said.
Gibson, who was unarmed, was shot to death by a Metro Police officer in Dec. 2011. The officer, Jesus Arevalo, was fired from Metro in early October.
Gibson who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and cancer accidentally drove into the wrong apartment complex near his home. He was lost and became confused as he drove around the parking lot. Police were called about a suspicious vehicle and confronted Gibson. The situation turned into a standoff and Gibson refused to exit his vehicle. Poor radio communication and a mistaken police plan resulted in Gibson being shot four times. Police were supposed to use a non-lethal bean bag to get Gibson out of his car, but officer Arevalo used an high-powered rifle and fired on Gibson.
Rondha can easily find the bullet holes in the jacket her husband was wearing that night. The jacket was retrieved after nearly two years in Metro's evidence file.
Cal Potter, Gibson's attorney, said both parties struggled to come up with the $1.5 million settlement figure.
"Metro thinks they paid too much and we don't think they paid enough. But it is a situation where the parties have agreed at this point in time," Potter said.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the settlement worked best for the city, the county and Metro.
"It was recommended by our attorney and he says it's in the best interests of our department in terms of our exposure and liability," Sisolak said.
 While the money will help Rondha honor her husband, she said, it will not make the pain of his loss go away.
"There's no amount of money you can take that you can put on a human head. I mean, Stan made every single day worth a million dollars to me."
Stanley Gibson's mother still has a pending case against Metro that has not been resolved.

VA Implementing Dental Insurance Plan


According to a VA announcement:

VA is implementing a comprehensive national VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP) to give enrolled Veterans and CHAMPVAbeneficiaries the opportunity to purchase dental insurance through Delta Dental and MetLife at a reduced cost. Participation is voluntary. 
Purchasing a dental plan does not affect Veterans’ eligibility for VA dental services and treatment. VADIP opens November 15 for the purchasing of plans, with coverage beginning January 1, 2014. 
Covered services include diagnostic, preventative, surgical, emergency and endodontic/restorative treatment. Delta Dental and MetLife are offering multiple plans. Each participant pays the fixed monthly premiums for coverage and any copayments required, depending on the type of plan selected. 
Dependents of Veterans, except those eligible under CHAMPVA, are not authorized to participate in VADIP. Those individuals may be eligible for separate dental insurance coverage offered by these carriers. 
For more information about VADIP, explore our Fact Sheet or our Frequently Asked Questions brochure.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Brainstem Dysfunction Found in Fibromyalgia

Written by Anthony Hardie, 

( - Oct. 17, 2013) - New medical research from Austria suggests functional changes in the brain at the brainstem level in fibromyalgia, a disease characterized by chronic widespread pain and an array of additional potential symptoms.

The brainstem regulates the central nervous system, including heart rate, breathing, sleep, digestion, pain sensation, and temperature regulation.  The brainstem includes the midbrain, medulla oblongata, and the pons.  
Fibromyalgia is a "presumptive" condition  for the purposes of VA service-connected disability claims.for veterans with Persian Gulf War service (between Aug. 2, 1990 and the present).
See the journal article abstract here:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Veterans with Gulf War Illness show brain changes linked to memory deficits


Veterans With Gulf War Illness Show Brain Changes Linked to Memory Deficits

Oct. 15, 2013 — New research illuminates definitive brain alterations in troops with Gulf War Illness (GWI) thought to result from the exposure to neurotoxic chemicals, including sarin gas, during the first Persian Gulf War.

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"More than 250,000 troops, or approximately 25% of those deployed during the first Persian Gulf War, have been diagnosed with Gulf War Illness (GWI). Although medical professionals have recognized the chronic and often disabling illness for almost two decades, brain changes that uniquely identify GWI have been elusive until now," explained researcher Bart Rypma, principal investigator at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.
This study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, is novel in that it confirms GWI deficits in working memory, a critical cognitive function that enables short-term retention of information for higher-level thinking ability.
In addition, brain alterations revealed in the study show a consistent pattern representing a neurobiological marker that could potentially be used to positively identify GWI.
The research team assessed three aspects of working memory: accuracy, speed, and efficiency. Results showed that participants with GWI performed significantly slower and less accurately than matched healthy veterans, and their efficiency decreased with increasing task difficulty.
During these difficult conditions, the participants showed relatively lower levels of activity in prefrontal brain regions which may compromise their ability to implement effective, higher-level thinking strategies in cognitively demanding situations.
"Our results revealed that at the root of cognitive issues in GWI patients are profound working memory deficits that correlate with a unique brain change visible in the fMRI scanner. These results support an empirical link between exposure to neurotoxic chemicals, specifically sarin nerve gas, and cognitive deficits and neurobiological changes in the brain," said Rypma. "Implementing interventions that improve working memory could have positive effects on many aspects of daily life from the ability to complete a shopping list, match names with faces, all the way to elevating mood."
"Difficulty remembering has been the most common, unexplained impairment resulting from service in the 1991 Persian Gulf War," said Robert Haley, co-investigator and Chief of Epidemiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "This functional MRI study provides the first objective evidence showing the exact malfunctions in the brain's memory circuits that underlie these chemically induced memory problems."
The new findings may also have implications for the treatment of several disorders involving similar neural systems, including one Alzheimer's disease.
"Both GWI and Alzheimer's disease result in profound cognitive impairment and share similar neurochemical underpinnings," explained the study's lead author Nicholas Hubbard. "The distinct neural markers associated with cognitive performance and GWI revealed in our study can be useful for future research to objectively measure the efficacy of treatments for GWI as well as other brain disorders related to the same neurotransmitter system, like Alzheimer's disease."