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Gulf War Syndrome linked to nerve gas exposure, new study finds

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Gulf War SyndromeLong a contentious issue between government agencies and veterans, a new study shows Gulf War Syndrome is the result of long-term exposure to small amounts of sarin gas, and at least 25 percent of veterans deployed in the war may have the syndrome.

Long considered a form of combat stress by the US Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs, the syndrome has been examined extensively. A new study by researchers at the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas in Dallas, finds abnormalities associated with Gulf War Syndrome have persisted for 20 years and in certain cases, have actually worsened.

Dr. Robert Haley, chief epidemiologist at UT Southwestern, along with a team of clinicians and researchers, have been at odds with the government for over a decade in a funding battle over Gulf War Syndrome studies, yet the new report, published in the current issue of the journal Radiology, sheds more light on damages to the brain from nerve gas exposure.

“This was really one of the first techniques to show an objective picture of whether there's really brain damage or not,” said Haley, the Dallas Observer reports.

In the study, a neurotransmitter which mimics nerve gas, acetylcholine, was used. It slows the heart rate as well as blood flowing to the brain, making one sluggish, but for receptors in those damaged by nerve gas, there is no sluggish experience. For some, it has the exact opposite effect.

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