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Khamisiyah plume exposure linked to cognitive effects in Gulf War veterans

Researchers examine a correlation between hippocampal structural alterations and exposure to the Khamisiyah plume.

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Credit: Acadiana-Neurosurgery

According to a study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, exposure to the Khamisiyah plume may have significantly contributed to the presence of cognitive deficits in Gulf War veterans.

For the study, a total of 113 participants, all of whom served during the Gulf War, had particular regions of their brain analyzed utilizing Tesla magnetic resonance imaging. 62 participants had predicted exposure as per the Department of Defense exposure models.

The study found that those with predicted exposure had reduced total hippocampal and CA3/dentate gyrus volumes when compared to their counterpart.

“Veterans with predicted exposure had smaller total hippocampal and CA3/dentate gyrus volumes compared with unexposed veterans, even after accounting for potentially confounding genetic and clinical variables,” the study’s lead author stated.

One of the most significant changes observed were memory deficits, which researchers say was positively correlated with hippocampal volume.

“Among veterans with predicted exposure, memory performance was positively correlated with hippocampal volume and negatively correlated with estimated exposure levels and self-reported memory difficulties.”

The results of the study, researchers note, add more reliability to previous findings on low-level exposure to chemical nerve agents from the Khamisiyah pit demolition and its effect on brain structure.

“These results replicate and extend our previous finding that low-level exposure to chemical nerve agents from the Khamisiyah pit demolition has detrimental, lasting effects on brain structure and function.”

The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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