Brain scans of Gulf War veterans show brain damage

to the brain.

Dr. James Fleckenstein, professor of radiology, presented initial findings from the study Nov. 30 at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting. Publication of the findings in the journal Radiology indicates they have now passed rigorous peer review.

"This brain disorder is quite similar to a variety of other diseases in which patients may be severely disabled, the conventional MRI scan is normal and the MR spectroscopy scan uniquely detects brain damage," Fleckenstein said.

The tests were conducted on 22 members of a Naval Reserve construction battalion, commonly known as Seabees, in the southeastern United States. The tests were also done on 18 healthy veterans from the same battalion. Investigators performing the tests were blinded to group identities.

The findings were replicated among a small sample of six Gulf War Army veterans living in Dallas who have been diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome 2.

"Finding the same level of brain cell abnormality in the veterans from a different branch of service and a different part of the country increases the likelihood that the findings are widespread among the nation's veterans," Haley said.

In 1997 Haley and his colleagues defined three Gulf War syndromes in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Syndrome 1, commonly found in veterans who wore pesticide-containing flea collars, is characterized by impaired cognition. Syndrome 2, called confusion-ataxia, the most severe and debilitating of the syndromes, is found among veterans who said they were exposed to low-level nerve gas and experienced side effects from anti-nerve gas, or pyridostigmine (PB), tablets. Syndrome 3, characterized by central pain, is found in veterans who wore insect repellent with high concentrations of DEET and experienced side effects from the PB tablets.

The MR spectroscopy study found that veterans with Syndrome 2 had 18 percent less N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in the right

Contact: Mindy Baxter
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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