Neurobehavioral deficits in Persian Gulf veterans: additional evidence from a population-based study.Environ Res. 2001 Jan; 85(1):1-13.ER
Reports of low-concentration nerve gas exposures during the Gulf War (GW) have spurred concern about possible health consequences and symptoms reported by many returning veterans. The Portland Environmental Hazards Research Center is studying veterans from the northwest United States who report persistent, unexplained "Gulf War" symptoms (cases) and those who do not report those symptoms (controls). An epidemiological survey focused on exposures and symptoms was mailed to a random sample of GW veterans from Oregon and southwestern Washington. Volunteers recruited from survey respondents agreed to undergo a thorough medical examination and psychological and neurobehavioral assessment. Persistent symptoms with no medical explanation associated with Persian Gulf service (e.g., fatigue, muscle pain, memory deficits) beginning during or after the war qualified respondents as cases. The 239 cases with unexplained symptoms and the 112 controls without symptoms were administered a computerized assessment battery of 12 psychosocial and 6 neurobehavioral tests. Replicating and extending previous interim findings, a subgroup of veterans emerged from the initial analysis in the form of extreme outliers which produced a visually and quantitatively obvious bimodal distribution. This led, as it had previously, to analyses of the outliers as a separate group (labeled "slow ODTP"), which confirmed the initial findings of neurobehavioral differences between the outliers and the other cases and controls and provided more convincing evidence that the majority of cases who report neurobehavioral symptoms have no objective evidence of neurobehavioral deficits. However, the larger group of symptomatic veterans do have highly significant and compelling evidence of psychological distress based on scores from 11 separate psychological tests. Whereas the cases differed from the controls by poorer neurobehavioral test performance, extraction of the slow ODTP participants (almost all cases) eliminated neurobehavioral performance differences between the remaining cases and the controls and provided support for the hypothesis that the slow ODTP cases might have been from the unhealthy end of the GW population prior to the war. However, there was no evidence of poor motivation, pre-GW educational differences, or greater association with abnormal psychological function in this group than in other cases or controls.