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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gulf War veterans brain scans begin to offer hope

Brain scans lead to discovery of two types of veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome
By Alan Zarembo
Los Angeles Times
Published: June 16, 2013

LOS ANGELES - Using brain scans and exercise stress tests, researchers have identified two biologically distinct subgroups of veterans suffering from "Gulf War illness."

Their bodies reacted differently to physical exertion, and their brains had atrophied in different regions.

None of the patterns were seen in a control group of healthy subjects.

The findings, published online Friday in the journal PLOS One, are part of a growing body of work that the authors said could eventually lead to biological markers for the mysterious condition, which is still defined by its hodgepodge of symptoms.

"That's the hope," said Georgetown University researcher Rakib Rayhan, lead author of the study.

Still, the importance of the differences his team identified is far from clear, said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, an expert on Gulf War illness at UC San Diego, who was not involved in the research. There are many ways to parse any population of patients with a condition that is so variable and diverse, she said.

After the 1991 Gulf War, veterans began complaining of various problems, including pain, fatigue, headaches and cognitive impairment. The symptoms ranged from mild to debilitating.

Up to 30 percent of the 700,000 troops who served in the war are thought to be affected.
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