Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stress test and brain scans pinpoint two distinct forms of Gulf War illness

Date:
June 14, 2013
Source:
Georgetown University Medical Center
Summary:
New research suggests that Gulf War illness may have two distinct forms depending on which brain regions have atrophied. In a study of Gulf War veterans, researchers say their findings help explain why clinicians have consistently encountered veterans with different symptoms and complaints.

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center say their new work suggests that Gulf War illness may have two distinct forms depending on which brain regions have atrophied. Their study of Gulf War veterans, published online today in PLOS ONE, may help explain why clinicians have consistently encountered veterans with different symptoms and complaints.

Using brain imaging that was acquired before and after exercise tests, the researchers studied the effects of physical stress on the veterans and controls. Following exercise, subgroups were evident. In 18 veterans, they found that pain levels increased after completion of the exercise stress tests exercised; fMRI scans in these participants showed loss of brain matter in adjacent regions associated with pain regulation.

During cognitive tasks, this group showed an increased use of the basal ganglia -- a potential compensatory strategy the brain uses that is also seen in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Following exercise, this group lost the ability to employ their basal ganglia, suggesting an adverse response to a physiological stressor.

In addition, "a separate group of 10 veterans had a very different clinical alteration," says lead author Rakib Rayhan, a researcher in the lab of the study's senior investigator, James Baraniuk, MD, a professor of medicine at GUMC.

In these 10 veterans, the researchers found substantial increases in heart rate. They also discovered that this subgroup had atrophy in the brain stem, which regulates heart rate. .

In addition, brain scans during a cognitive task performed prior to exercise showed increased compensatory use of the cerebellum, again a trait seen in neurodegenerative disorders. Like the other group, this cohort lost the ability to use this compensatory area after exercise.

Alterations in cognition, brain structure and exercise-induced symptoms found in the veterans were absent in the 10-participant matched control group, the researchers say.

"The use of other brain areas to compensate for a damaged area is seen in other disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, which is why we believe our data show that these veterans are suffering from central nervous system dysfunction," Rayhan explains. He adds, however, that because such changes are similar to other neurodegenerative states, it doesn't mean that veterans will progress to Alzheimer's or other diseases.

These findings -- a surprise to researchers -- follow a study in Gulf War veterans published in March in PLOS ONE that reported abnormalities in the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the brain areas involved in the processing and perception of pain and fatigue.

Gulf War Illness is the mysterious malady believed to have affected more than 200,000 military personnel who served in the 1990-1991 Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Although veterans were exposed to nerve agents, pesticides and herbicides (among other toxic chemicals), no one has definitively linked any single exposure or underlying mechanism to Gulf War illness.

The symptoms of Gulf War illness -- which have not been widely accepted by the public or medical professionals -- range from mild to debilitating and can include widespread pain, fatigue and headache, as well as cognitive and gastrointestinal dysfunctions.

"Our findings help explain and validate what these veterans have long said about their illness," Rayhan says.

Support for the study was provided by a Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program award (W81-XWH-09-1-0526) and federal funds (grant # UL1TR000101, previously UL1RR031975) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgetown University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rakib U. Rayhan, Benson W. Stevens, Megna P. Raksit, Joshua A. Ripple, Christian R. Timbol, Oluwatoyin Adewuyi, John W. VanMeter, James N. Baraniuk. Exercise Challenge in Gulf War Illness Reveals Two Subgroups with Altered Brain Structure and Function. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e63903 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063903

Cite This Page:

Georgetown University Medical Center. "Stress test and brain scans pinpoint two distinct forms of Gulf War illness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614230413.htm>.
Georgetown University Medical Center. (2013, June 14). Stress test and brain scans pinpoint two distinct forms of Gulf War illness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614230413.htm
Georgetown University Medical Center. "Stress test and brain scans pinpoint two distinct forms of Gulf War illness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614230413.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins