Research Spotlight: Study links Gulf War exposure, brain changes

Brain scan with visible variations in signalA new study of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suggests that exposure to neurotoxins such as anti-nerve agent pills, insect repellent and Sarin caused neurological changes to their brains.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Southern Methodist University, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dallas performed digital brain scans on 21 chronically ill Gulf War veterans from the same Naval Reserve construction bairttalion, all of whom had symptoms of Gulf War syndrome.

Richard Gunst, Wayne Woodward and William Schucany, professors in SMU’s Statistical Science Department, are collaborating with imaging specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center to compare brain scans of people suffering from the syndrome with those of a healthy control group. They are pioneering the use of spatial statistical modeling to analyze brain scan data from Gulf War veterans, aiming to pinpoint specific areas of the brain affected by Gulf War Syndrome.

The SMU team is working with UTSW epidemiologist and 2008 Dedman College Distinguished Graduate Robert Ware Haley. Haley, one of the foremost experts on the syndrome, earned B.A. degrees in philosophy and social sciences from SMU in 1967.

A congressionally mandated study has revealed that 1 of every 4 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffers from neurological symptoms collectively referred to as Gulf War syndrome. The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses began work in 2002 and presented its report to then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake in November 2008.

Read more from the April 1, 2009 edition of Air Force Times
Read more from the Nov. 20, 2008 edition of Science Daily
The Report to Congress: Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans (pdf)