Minnesota Women's Healthy Brain Aging Project: Past, Present, and Future

Lisa James, PhD, holder of the Kunin Chair of women's healthy brain ging, presented her work at the University of Minnesota on June 12th, 2018. She, along with the project coordinator, Stacy Dolan, RN are shown describing and seeking support from an appreciative audience. Two attendees are shown with project assistant Rachel Johnson (right).

To learn more about our work and how you can support it, click here


Brain Cell Damage caused by Gulf War Illness serum is reversed by healthy serum

Gulf War Illness and its brain cell damage may be caused by harmful substances that could not be eliminated by veterans who lacked specific immunity. We tested this theory by adding the serum of Gulf War Illness veterans to brain cell cultures. Neural network functioning was disrupted, cell growth was reduced, and cells died.

All of these negative effects were reversed when healthy Gulf War Veterans' serum was added to the cultures. We conclude that Gulf War Illness serum contains brain damaging factors that can be neutralized by healthy serum, possibly by specifc antibodies.

According to Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos, who led the study, "This points the way to treatment for these veterans".

Read the full report here


Kare 11 explores PTSD and PTSD research involving the Brain Sciences Center

Join Kare 11 as they explore Former Army infantryman Brian Zimmerman's experience with PTSD, its treatment, and potential PTSD research at the Brain Sciences Center.

Watch the trailer video, part 1, and part 2


What goes on with our brains as we age?

The Minnesota Women’s Healthy Brain Aging Project asked that question in 2010. Since then, more than 250 women in good cognitive health have signed up for the study, which uses state-of-the-art brain imaging coupled with information about physical and mental health, lifestyle information such as diet and physical activity, and genetics to determine how the brain adapts with age to maintain resilience and healthy cognitive functioning.

Women are studied from early adulthood through advanced old age.

“The goal is to create a comprehensive databank that will provide information by which to characterize brain status, assess changes over time, and associate them with genomic makeup, cognitive function, and language ability,” says study creator Apostolos Georgopoulos, a Regents Professor in the Department of Neuroscience.

Among the early findings, the researchers have just published evidence that those who lacked a specific “protective” form of a particular gene involved with the immune system underwent significantly greater loss of the gray matter in their brains as they aged than did those whose genomes included the protective form of the gene.

“Ultimately, we seek to be able to forecast the trajectory of brain health status and, possibly, recommend interventions to maximize brain health,” says project director Lisa James, an associate professor of neuroscience and Kunin Professor in Women’s Healthy Brain Aging.

The project is housed at the Brain Sciences Center of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and is being conducted through the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Read more here


Subcortical brain atrophy in Gulf War Illness

More than a quarter of the veterans who served in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War experience chronic unexplained health problems collectively referred to as Gulf War Illness. GWI is characterized by multiple symptoms. Although characteristic symptoms span multiple systems, several involve the brain. These symptoms and others are among the most commonly reported symptoms in veterans who deployed during the Gulf War, strongly suggesting brain involvement.

We suspect that the limited evidence of cerebellar and other subcortical anomalies in GWI in not a reflection of "normality" but is instead attributable to a tendency in neuroimaging research to focus on particular regions of interest at the exclusion of other brain difference. We aim to further explore cerebellar and other subcortical abnormalities associated with GWI by comparing subcortical volumes in veterans with GWI to healthy veterans.

Read more here


HLA and Gulf War Illness: HLA-DRB1*13:02 Spares Subcortical Atrophy in Gulf War Veterans

For over 25 years, veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War have been affected by chronic health problems that are presumed to be sequelae of service related exposures to toxins such as pyridostigmine bromide, pesticides, multiple vaccinations, and//or stress. Many symptoms involve the central nervous system; consequently, several studies have investigated brain structure and function with mixed findings.

We have recently identified function and structure brain anomalies, both of which prominently involved subcortical regions. We investigated the effect of DRB1*13:02 on the volumes of subcortical brain regions found to be reduced in affected veterans to test the hypothesis that HLA BRB1*13:02 prevents subcortical brain atrophy.

Read more here


MPR Reports: What are we learning about how to treat PTSD?

While a majority of men and women who were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq returned to their lives feeling physically and emotionally fit, as many as 20 percent of all veterans who served in those war zones experience some symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Why do some people experience PTSD, but not others? And what are we learning about how to treat it?

MPR News host Kerri Miller spoke with the Brain Sciences Center's Brian Engdahl, a neuroscience professor at the University of Minnesota, and the Anderson Chair in PTSD Research at the University of Minnesota Medical School

Listen to the interview here


American Legion Brain Sciences presents Scholarship Awards Winners

The American Legion Brain Sciences Foundation presented two recipients with Scholarships at the 2017 American Legion Family awards ceremony. The recipients were (from left to right) Jasmine Joseph and Matt Green. See the full story here


UPDATED: Dr. Georgopoulos presented American Legion's Highest Award

Indianapolis, Indiana

Dr. Apostolos Georgopoulos was presented The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal. American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt said Georgopoulos is responsible for research involving PTSD, Gulf War Illness, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, alcohol abuse and other areas. The American Legion Distinguished Service Medal recognizes outstanding service to the nation and programs of The American Legion.

read more about the presentation here

The American Legion's Board of Directors announced on May 10 the that Apostolos Georgopoulos, Director of the Minneapolis VA Brain Sciences Center, has been awarded by unanimous vote the American Legion’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal for his “achievements in research on Gulf War illness as it affects an estimated 300,000 veterans and military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan”. The medal is based on outstanding service to the community, state, and nation and has been awarded since 1921. Past recipients include Jonas Salk, Babe Ruth, General Eisenhower, Bob Hope, and Presidents Truman, Ford, George HW Bush, and George W Bush.

According to Dr. Georgopoulos:

This tremendous honor is a recognition of the contributions of the Minnesota Veterans in creating and supporting the American Legion Brain Sciences Chair of which I have been the privileged holder since 1991. Our efforts at the Brain Sciences Center of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System are culminating in major breakthroughs regarding Gulf War Illness and posttraumatic stress disorder, two conditions of major concern in our veterans. My heartfelt thanks to my collaborators, our Medical Center leadership, and all our supporters.

The award will be presented in August at the American Legion’s annual convention in Reno, NV by Charles Schmidt, National Commander: “on behalf of all our veterans and military personnel who will be the beneficiaries of your medical research accomplishments”.


Gulf War Illness as a Neuroimmune Disease

by Apostolos Georgopoulos, et al.

GWI is a chronic disease characterized by the involvement of several organs, including the brain. Previously, the BSC had identified six protective alleles from the HLA genes, and have investigated the correlates of the protection with this gene. Those and other studies suggested an involvement of the immune system in GWI. Here we focused on the Synchronous Neural Interactions itself, as a basic measure of neural communication and compared in between GWI and seven other diseases that cover a broad spectrum of etiology and pathophysiology.

read full study here


Researchers pinpoint reductions in brain volume of ill Gulf War Vets

by Mike Richman, VA Research Communications

The Brain Sciences Center at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System has evolved into one of the leading facilities in the country for researching Gulf War illness (GWI), a condition that is of major concern to the Veteran community.
Researchers at the center have made what they believe to be key breakthroughs with GWI.

read more here - read full study here


Kare11 Report: Minnesota Trauma Project and PTSD Awareness Day

from Kent Erdahl, KARE

It's that time of year when we burst with national pride. It's worth remembering that many people including many of those who fought for our country, struggle with symbolic bombs bursting in air. Psychologists Brian Engahl and Ryan Van Wyk talked with KARE 11 about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on June 27, a day dedicated to Post Traumatic Stress Awareness...

read more and watch the story here



Updated July 13, 2016