New Gulf War Syndrome Discovery Is 'Huge'
Findings will allow doctors to quickly arrive at a diagnosis
By Mark Russell, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2013 11:40 AM CDT
British Gulf War veterans march over Westminster Bridge past the London Eye Ferris Wheel in protest to mark the 20th Anniversary of the end of the first Gulf War in London, Monday, Feb. 28, 2011.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

(Newser) – Scientists now know that Gulf War Syndrome is more than just a psychological condition—it's actually tied to brain damage. But for the first time, they have zeroed in on physical proof that this is the case. The Georgetown researchers used fMRI machines on 31 Gulf War vets and were able to spot abnormalities in the bundles of nerve fibers that process pain. They "have deteriorated compared to the control," says a researcher, and USA Today explains the impact thusly: "a tiny pulse of pressure is interpreted as a painful pinch, or normal muscle fatigue from walking a flight of stairs could be interpreted as climbing to the fourteenth floor."

The discovery is "huge," says another researcher, because it will allow veterans to be quickly diagnosed via the fMRI scan. Most hospitals are equipped with the necessary MRI machines, and would just need to install the proper software and train their technicians on its use. "We're able to say, 'There is something here,'" says the study's lead author. "'Take these veterans seriously when they come in.'" You can check out PLoS ONE to see the original paper.

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Showing 3 of 41 comments
Mar 26, 2013 4:11 PM CDT
This is a good thing for those vets of the first Gulf War, and long time coming. But it does not explain how it is that family members of those vets who have returned home are also ill with these same symptoms. And it does not explain how other segments of the non-military populations of many countries also have those same symptoms, too. What is hopeful -aside from the fact that these vets will now get some help --is that the descriptor is changing to multiple chemical illness, which I hope in time will be identified in larger groups of people who also have these symptoms.
Mar 21, 2013 12:38 PM CDT
This is good, but any mention of how to correct this or repair the damage once detected?
Mar 21, 2013 12:16 PM CDT
Ok, before the comments start pouring in about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (although he was involved in this, just not as vice president), the story is referring to the 1991 Desert Storm campaign. The research was done on veterans of that war NOT the most recent trip to Iraq.