Visual event-related potentials as markers of hyperarousal in Gulf War illness: Evidence against a stress-related etiology

Center for BrainHealth, The University of Texas at Dallas, USA.
Psychiatry research 11/2012; 211(3). DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2012.08.004
Source: PubMed


An exaggerated response to emotional stimuli is among the many symptoms widely reported by veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. These symptomologies have been attributed to damage and dysfunction associated with deployment-related exposures. We collected event-related potential data from 22 veterans meeting Haley criteria for Gulf War (GW) Syndromes 1-3 and from 8 matched GW veteran controls, who were deployed but not symptomatic, while they performed a visual three-condition oddball task where images authenticated to be associated with the 1991 Persian Gulf War were the distractor stimuli. Hyperarousal reported by ill veterans was significantly greater than that by control veterans, but this was not paralleled by higher amplitude P3a in their ERP responses to GW-related distractor stimuli. Whereas previous studies of PTSD patients have shown higher amplitude P3b responses to target stimuli that are placed amid trauma-related nontarget stimuli, ill veterans in this study showed P3b amplitudes to target stimuli - placed amid GW-related nontarget stimuli - that were significantly lower than those of the control group. Hyperarousal scores reliably predicted P3b, but not P3a, amplitudes. Although many factors may contribute to P3b amplitude differences - most notably depression and poor sleep quality, symptoms that are prevalent in the GW syndrome groups - our findings in context of previous studies on this population are consistent with the contention that dysfunction in cholinergic and dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems, and in white matter and basal ganglia may be contributing to impairments in GW veterans.

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Available from: Robert Ware Haley, Nov 18, 2015
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    • "GW veterans with Syndromes 1 and 2 showed P3a amplitudes that were significantly different from controls and Syndrome 3 subjects. In a follow-up study, significantly lower P3b amplitudes were seen in all three syndrome groups when compared to controls (Tillman et al., 2013). As a group, studies that utilize imaging and EEG probes when investigating veterans with GWI defined in various ways and when assessing GW veterans with sarin/cyclosarin exposure consistently identify structural and electrical abnormalities in the central nervous system: 14 of the 15 papers published since 2008 and summarized in Tables 5 and 6 support this conclusion. "
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