American Legion update on Gulf War Illness and promising tests to assist in diagnostics.

BSC member Dr. Brian Engdahl and colleagues met with The American Legion's Ken Olsen to discuss Gulf War Illness and new developments in ways to test for GWI. "In Minnesota, the promise of a test for Gulf War Illness"

from the article by from the article by Ken Olsen...
"Brian Engdahl sees the day when a blood test could remove all doubt about who's suffering from Gulf War Illness. It may be less than five years away

"The key is the way an individual's immune system is genetically programmed to respond to environmental insults, says Engdahl, a researcher at the University of Minnesota Brain Sciences Center and the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Such insults include the toxic exposures veterans experienced during the first Gulf War."

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Doctoral student Rachel Johnson adjusts the MEG at the Brain Sciences Center (photo: Aaron Levinsky, Star Tribune)

StarTribune Gulf War veterans article includes Brain Sciences Center efforts

Gulf War Illness research by BSC member Dr. Brian Engdahl and colleagues is featured in an August 14, 2016 Minneapolis Star Tribune article entitled, "Still sick 25 years after the Gulf War, a vet seeks answers — and the Minneapolis VA may have them."

from the article by Jeremy Olson...
"Using a unique brain scanner based on anti-submarine technology, the researchers also are studying brain activity in 1,000 veterans to identify patterns of dysfunction in those with Gulf War Illness. Already, their research has shown that the cerebellum is smaller in the brains of sickened Gulf War vets.

"To individual veterans, that is reassuring," Engdahl said. "They say, 'Aha … you can see it in my scans.' It's not just in their heads, figuratively."

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2016 BSC Summer Scholars (clockwise from top left)
Elsa Mattson, Lindsey Wanberg, Kha Lor, Michaela McGonigle, Abhi Ramesh, and Katie Martin.

2016 Summer Scholars learning research ropes at BSC

This summer, six science students will be helping with our ongoing Gulf War and PTSD projects, plus assisting Drs. Shikha Jain Goodwin and Adam Carpenter with their study of multiple sclerosis.

  • Elsa Mattson (University of Minnesota/neuroscience minor) is interested in the neural mechanisms and gender differences in psychopathology.
  • Lindsey Wanberg (Washington University, St. Louis/pre-med, biology) is also performing her own research on secondary traumatic stress.
  • Kha Lor (University of St. Thomas/neuroscience major) has explored the computational and physical surface-induced collisions of polypeptides. Her main research project will be with Dr. Brian Engdahl, looking at PTSD and Quality of Life as outcome variables. She will also be working under Drs. Lisa James and Jennifer Heath Mathison with the Brain Resilience Project and Gulf War Illness studies.
  • Michaela McGonigle (Macalester College/psychology major, biology minor with neuroscience emphasis) has studied facial expression processing in the human brain and measured the visual capacity of neurotypical adults in comparison to autistic adults using an eye tracker and MRI scans.
  • Abhismitha Ramesh (University of Minnesota/pre-med, psychology) has been active in the Physician Mentorship/Shadowing program at the VAMC and has volunteered at the East Bank Oncology Unit, University of Minnesota Medical Center.
  • Katie Martin (University of Minnesota/neuroscience major) is investigating psychological dysfunctions, as well as how plasticity allows our brains to adapt to our needs.
Top GWI stories at the Brain Sciences Center
Blood Test Could Determine Who May Suffer from Gulf War Illness

Todd Wilson, KSTP - Dec 10 2015

Brian Zimmermann joined the Army soon after quitting college. School just wasn't his thing.

"You don't think you'll have to fight when going into the Army," he said.

He was deployed for seven months during the first gulf war.

"We were attached to the seventh corps, and the seventh corps is who breached the berms from Saudi Arabia into Iraq," he said. "And we pushed across the country and made it all the way to the highway of death."

Zimmermann said he finished out his duty at a base in Kansas. Even before he came back from Iraq he knew something was wrong with him. Ever since that time, he said he has suffered from anxiety and feeling as if his skin is on fire.

"I have joint pain all the time, it doesn't go away. Sometimes it gets worse, it feels like your joints are exploding from the inside," he said.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are roughly 200,000 vets affected by Gulf War Illness. Ten thousand of those vets live here in Minnesota.

Brian Engdahl

Dr. Brian Engdahl of the BSC talks with Todd Wilson/KSTP about a recently discovered test for GWI.

Dr. Brian Engdahl at the Brain Sciences Center at the V.A. says, researchers have been testing Gulf War Illness since 1991. What they're doing now is brand new.

"So we said, lets get right down to it, lets look at your genes," Engdahl said.

For his study 82 vets were recruited who were interviewed and donated blood.

What they found was groundbreaking. Engdahl and his fellow researchers could determine from person to person by taking blood they could figure out who would suffer from Gulf War Illness with a high degree of accuracy.

How high is the accuracy? About 90 percent.

Engdahl said the breakthrough allows them to help people avoid these illnesses in the future by predicting patterns.

Zimmermann said he's thankful for findings.

"Someone needs to get it out there that 200,000 men and women are in pain," Zimmermann said.


Updated January 26, 2017