Research Reports from the Brain Sciences Center
Commentary: Supporting a Neuroimmune Basis of Gulf War Illness

EBioMedicine - 2016 - James P. O'Callaghan, et al

Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a complex multi-symptom disorder that has proven elusive to understand and treat. No specific st of exposures can explain the persistent symptoms, and the pathophysiology of GWI has remained unclear.

There have been several studies suggesting that this illness is the result of an interaction between exposures and genetics. A prior report by Georgopoulos and colleagues provided insight into a basis for a genetic/immune role in GWI.

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Brain Correlates of Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) Protection in Gulf War Illness (GWI)

EBioMedicine - 2016 - L.M. James, et al

We recently reported that six alleles from class II genes of the HLA confer protection from GWI. Here we tested the hypothesis that this effect is exerted by modulating the strength of neural synchronicity.

Participants underwent a mangetoencephalography (MEG) scan to assess the strength of brain synchronicity by computing zero-lag crosscorrelations between prewhitened MEG time series.

We found significant, graded HLA- and non-HLA-related effects. These effects had widespread but distinct distributions in seensor space that allowed for orderly separation of the 6 terms in the multidimensional plot.

These findings demonstrate the presence of substantial, widespread, distinct and orderly HLA- and non-HLA-related neural influences on symptom severity in GWI

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Reduced Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) Protection in Gulf War Illness (GWI)

EBioMedicine 3 - 2016 - Apostolos P. Georgopoulos, et al

Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a disease of unknown etiology with symptoms suggesting the involvement of an immune process. Here we tested the hypothesis that Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) composition might differ between veterans with and without GWI.

We identified 144 unique alleles of Class I and II HLA genes in 82 veterans (66 with and 16 without GWI). We tested the hypothesis that a subset of HLA alleles may classify veterans in their respective group using a stepwise linear discriminant analysis. In addition, each participant rated symptom severity in 6 domains according to established GWI criteria, and an overall symptom severity was calculated.

We found 6 Class II alleles that classified participants 84.1% correctly (13/16 control and 56/66 GWI). The number of copies of the 6 alleles was significantly higher in the control group, suggesting a protective role.

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A Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) Study of Gulf War Illness (GWI)

EBioMedicine - 2016 - Brian E. Engdahl, et al

Gulf War Illness (GWI) has affected many Gulf War veterans. It involves several organs, most notably the brain. Neurological-cognitive-mood-related symptoms frequently dominate and are at the root of chronic illhealth and disability in GWI. Here we investigated the neural mechanisms underlying brain dysfunction in GWI in the absence of mental health disorders.

Eighty-six veterans completed diagnostic interviews to establish the presence of GWI and assess mental health status. Participants diagnosed with GWI met both Center for Disease Control and Kansas criteria. We studied 46 healthy controls and 40 veterans with GWI without mental illness. They all underwent a resting-state magnetoencephalographic (MEG) scan to assess brain communication based on synchronous neural interactions (SNI; Georgopoulos et al., 2007).

We found substantial differences in SNI between control and GWI groups centered on the cerebellum and frontal cortex. In addition, using the maxima and minima of SNI per sensor as predictors, we successfully classified 94.2% of the 86 participants (95% sensitivity, 93.5% specificity).

These findings document distinct differences in brain function between control and GWI in the absence of mental health comorbidities, differences that are excellent predictors of GWI.

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Updated April 28, 2017