New evidence suggests biological causes for Gulf War Syndrome

For years, a wide range of mystifying symptoms, known collectively as "Gulf War Syndrome," has affected 30% of veterans of the 1991 conflict. Skeptics maintain the illness is predominantly psychosomatic, but a growing body of evidence suggests the condition has several biological bases.

UCSD Health Sciences News reports the latest evidence comes from scientists at Georgetown University, whose recently published findings point to neurological damage in the brains of gulf war veterans. The damage, which was localized in regions of their brains associated with heart rate and pain, may make veterans affected by gulf war syndrome more susceptible to pain, fatigue and difficulties with short-term memory.

Signs of a biological basis for gulf war syndrome have been slow to make themselves known, at least relative to, say, the effects of Agent Orange. The herbicide, used by the U.S. in its chemical warfare program during Vietnam, was determined shortly after war's conclusion to be associated with the onset of numerous diseases, including Hodgkin's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and birth defects in the children of exposed veterans. Gulf war syndrome's symptoms, and underlying causes, have been more difficult to pin down – today, more than two decades after the conclusion of the First Gulf War, researchers are still making sense of this poorly understood affliction.

For more, visit UCSD Health Sciences News for their interview with Beatrice Golomb. While Golomb did not participate in the Georgetown study, she has been investigating the effects of gulf war illness for many years, and offers some invaluable insights on the Georgetown team's research results.