2018 Issues   /   Research

Link Between Pain, Brain Disruption in Gulf War Veterans

By U.S. Medicine

MADISON, WI — Chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) affects about one-fourth of the 700,000 veterans deployed during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991. A study in the journal Pain pointed out that the cause of their pain is unknown, and no efficacious treatments exist.1

The study team, led by researchers from the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, noted that a small body of literature suggests that brain abnormalities exist in Gulf War Veterans (GV), yet relationships between brain abnormalities and disease symptoms remain largely unexplored.

The purpose, according to the researchers, was to compare white matter (WM) integrity between GVCMP and matched, healthy veteran controls (GVCO). Relationships then were determined between cerebral WM integrity and symptoms.

For the study, 30 GVCMP and 31 controls completed magnetic resonance imaging with diffusion tensor imaging. Results indicated that GVCMP had greater pain symptoms and mood disturbance and lower quality of life and physical function compared with GVCO (P < 0.05). In addition, GVCMP had lower WM integrity across several brain regions implicated in chronic pain (P < 0.05) including the middle and inferior frontal gyrus, corpus callosum, corona radiata, precentral gyrus, external capsule and posterior thalamic radiation.

For GVCMP, WM integrity was associated with pain and mood symptoms in widespread brain areas that were found to be different between groups (P < 0.05).

“Results indicate widespread WM microstructure disruption across brain regions implicated in pain processing and modulation in chronic pain,” study authors concluded. “The observed relationships between WM microstructure and symptoms encourage the testing of treatments designed to improve the brain health of affected veterans.”

1Van Riper SM, Alexander AL, Koltyn KF, Stegner AJ, et. al. Cerebral white matter structure is disrupted in Gulf War veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Pain. 2017 Dec;158(12):2364-2375. doi: 0.1097/j.pain.0000000000001038. PubMed PMID: 28796115.

Related Articles

Shulkin Ousted, White House Physician Nominated for VA Secretary

WASHINGTON — After several weeks of speculation regarding his future in the Trump Administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD’s tenure came to an abrupt end on March 28.

Women’s Health Initiative at VA Increases Use of Point of Care Testing

NEW YORK — From 2000 to 2014, the number of women veterans receiving care through the VA doubled. Today, approximately 750,000 women are enrolled in the VHA healthcare system and about half a million use it each year.

U.S. Medicine Recommends

More From research


First-Ever Study Focuses on How Well VHA Cares for TIA Patients

INDIANAPOLIS — While many healthcare systems measure the quality of their stroke care, looking at performance early in the vascular disease process can help avoid acute events altogether.


VA Patients Lack Testing to Optimize CLL Treatment

SALT LAKE CITY — The presence of deletion 17p (del17), determined by chromosome analysis and/or fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), is a strong negative prognostic marker in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), according to a report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.1


Early Relapse After AHCT Bad Sign in Multiple Myeloma

Vascular Events Lead to Stroke About a Fourth of the Time. INDIANAPOLIS — While many healthcare systems measure the quality of their stroke care, looking at performance early in the vascular disease process can help... View Article


Laparoscopic, Robotic Surgeries Equivalent for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer patients increasingly are receiving minimally invasive pancreaticoduodenectomy (MIPD).


Living With a Mystery Disease: One Woman’s Story

At 31, Susan Thornton developed an itchy rash around her waist.

Facebook Comment

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up