- CHICAGO (Reuters) - Symptoms
such as memory loss and dizziness suffered by U.S. veterans with Gulf War
syndrome can be correlated to specific areas of the brain where cells have
died, probably from chemical exposure, researchers said on Monday. In 1999
doctors from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
presented the results of brain scans performed on victims of the syndrome
showing depleted brain cells in three areas of their brains.
- "This year we show that brain cell losses from specific
areas of the brain correlate with different symptoms and abnormalities,"
lead researcher Robert Haley said in a report released at the annual meeting
of the Radiological Society of North America.
- The scans performed on 12 veterans with severe cases
of the syndrome found brain cell losses of between 10 percent and 25 percent
in three regions deep inside the brain -- the basal ganglia in each hemisphere
and the brain stem. Scans performed on healthy veterans of the 1990-1991
Gulf War were normal.
- The Texas researchers have found the amount of brain
cell loss in the Gulf War veterans to be comparable to that of patients
with brain diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's
disease), multiple sclerosis, dementia and other degenerative neurological
disorders, although the brain areas affected are different.
- Veterans with damage to the right basal ganglia appeared
to share symptoms such as impaired sense of direction, memory lapses and
- Brain cell losses on the left side appeared to cause
more general confusion, including difficulty in understanding instructions,
reading, solving problems and making decisions. Left side damage also appeared
to correlate with elevated levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved
in movement and emotion.
- Damage to the brain stem appeared to account at least
in part for loss of balance and dizzy spells in the veterans.
- "This helps explain why not all patients have the
same exact symptoms. Depending on which brain regions were damaged by chemicals
in the war, veterans may have more or different types of symptoms,"
- In past research the Texas team has identified three
primary Gulf War syndromes, and tried to link sets of symptoms with different
combinations of chemicals toxic to brain cells.
- Syndrome 1, commonly found in veterans who wore pesticide-containing
flea collars, is marked by impaired cognition.
- Syndrome 2, called confusion ataxia, is the most severe
and debilitating. It was found among veterans who said they were exposed
to low-level nerve gas and experienced side effects from anti-nerve gas
pyridostigmine (PB), tablets.
- "It may have been the combination of low-level nerve
gas exposure and anti-gas tablets that caused the brain damage underlying
(the most severe form of the) syndrome," Haley said.
- Syndrome 3, characterized by central pain, is found in
veterans who wore insect repellent with high concentrations of DEET, a
repellent chemical, and who experienced side effects from the anti-nerve
- The researchers noted that brain scans performed on veterans
suffering from combat stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms did not
correlate significantly with damage in any of the three brain regions.
- As many as 100,000 of the 700,000 U.S. soldiers who served
in the Gulf War complain of symptoms, which many attribute to exposure
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