For the last twenty years, veterans of the Persian Gulf War of 1991 have been complaining of a range of ailments, including pain, fatigue, and problems with memory and concentration. And for just as long, the causes have remained uncertain and there has been a tendency by the military to attribute the complaints to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now a long-term study at the University of Texas in Dallas has used a new technique to measure blood flow in the brains of sufferers and has detected "marked abnormalities" in brain function that can probably be attributed to low levels of exposure to sarin nerve gas. This abnormal blood flow has persisted or even worsened over the eleven years of the study.
"The findings mark a significant advancement in our understanding of the syndrome, which was for years written off by the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs as a form of combat stress rather than an objectively diagnosable injury," reports the Dallas Observer.
"Dr. Robert Haley, chief epidemiologist at UT Southwestern, and a cadre of clinicians and researchers, have struggled with the government for some 18 years for research funding and to have the syndrome recognized as a legitimate war injury," the paper notes.
Heley's team has not yet pinpointed the nature of the brain damage, which is estimated to affect 25% of the 700,000 Gulf War veterans, or worked out an effective treatment. He is confident, however, that "the research is really going to come to a head in the next six to 12 months."
Photo by PHC D. W. HOLMES II, US Navy (Still Asset Details for DNST9207833) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.