HEALTH / WELL-BEING

A Pilot Study to Examine Psychological and Neuropsychological Outcomes and a Novel Detoxification Program for Gulf War Illness

Article

This pilot study explores a novel detoxification method for Gulf War Veterans (GWV) exposed to toxicants such as pesticides, nerve gases, and pyridostigmine bromide. A sample of 32 GWV were split into two groups, one group were evaluated then sent home for 4 weeks and the second group started treatment immediately. Both groups participated in the same 4- to 5-week treatment and completed the same outcome measures 7 days after and 3 months after the treatment. The study found that the detoxification procedure provided improvement in psychological and cognitive function for GWV and that future study is warranted.

Abstract

Introduction - Exposures to environmental toxins have been associated with severe health problems for approximately one-quarter of the nearly 700,000 U.S. soldiers who served in the Gulf War between the years 1990 and 1991. Gulf War illness still affects about 30% of Gulf War veterans (GWV), causing reduced psychological wellness and neuropsychological function. Method and Materials - This pilot study used a randomized wait-list control design to explore the feasibility and efficacy of a novel detoxification method for GWV exposed to toxicants such as pesticides, nerve gases, and pyridostigmine bromide. Our study included 32 GWV (67% male), with a mean age of 51 (range: 43-70, SD = 6.97), who participated in a 4- to 5-week treatment that was hypothesized to reduce the reported psychological and neuropsychological symptoms. Psychological measures used included tests given for the evaluation of neurocognitive function, including motor function for a dominant hand with the grooved pegboard test; verbal and visual immediate and delayed memory with the Wechsler Memory Scale III abbreviated subtests; executive function domains of attention, speed, and mental flexibility with trail making test parts A and B and Stroop color and word test. Psychological status was measured using the nine subscales of the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised. Results - Primary outcomes included between-group differences in self-reported psychological measures and a neuropsychological battery at 7-day and 3-month assessments. Baseline comparison revealed improvements in 16 of 19 psychological and neuropsychological measures at 7-day assessment and that 13 remained stable at 3-month assessment. Conclusions - We conclude that the detoxification procedure provided improvement in psychological and cognitive function for GWV and that future study is warranted.

Full Reference

Donald F Graves, PhD, Gayle S Morse, PhD, Kathleen Kerr, MD, David O Carpenter, MD, A Pilot Study to Examine Psychological and Neuropsychological Outcomes and a Novel Detoxification Program for Gulf War Illness, Military Medicine, Volume 186, Issue Supplement_1, January-February 2021, Pages 205–213, https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usaa486