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White Matter Diffusivity Linked to Gulf War Illness Symptoms

MONDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Fatigue, pain, and hyperalgesia are associated with increased axial diffusivity in the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus in veterans with Gulf War Illness, according to a study published online March 20 in PLOS ONE.

To examine the correlation between subjective reports of pain and fatigue with white matter diffusivity properties, Rakib U. Rayhan, from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and colleagues performed functional magnetic resonance imaging scans for diffusion tensor imaging in 31 Gulf War veterans and 20 sedentary veteran and civilian controls.

The researchers found that, for individuals with Gulf War illness, pain, fatigue, and hyperalgesia were significantly correlated with increased axial diffusivity in the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. Thresholds generated by receiver operator curve and subsequent regression analysis were able to classify Chronic Multisymptom Illness, based on axial diffusivity in the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. The associations were not seen in controls.

"The right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus may be a potential biomarker for Gulf War Illness. This tract links cortical regions involved in fatigue, pain, emotional and reward processing, and the right ventral attention network in cognition," the authors write. "The axonal neuropathological mechanism(s) explaining increased axial diffusivity may account for the most prominent symptoms of Gulf War Illness."

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