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Neuropsychological functioning of U.S. Gulf War veterans 10 years after the war

  • ROSEMARY TOOMEY (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), RENEE ALPERN (a5), JENNIFER J. VASTERLING (a6) (a7), DEWLEEN G. BAKER (a8) (a9), DOMENIC J. REDA (a5), MICHAEL J. LYONS (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), WILLIAM G. HENDERSON (a5), HAN K. KANG (a10), SETH A. EISEN (a11) (a12) (a13) and FRANCES M. MURPHY (a14) (a15)...


Many U.S. Gulf War-era veterans complained of poor cognition following the war. This study assessed neuropsychological functioning in veterans 10 years after the war through objective tests. 2189 Gulf War-era veterans (1061 deployed, 1128 non-deployed) were examined at 1 of 16 U.S. Veterans Affairs medical centers. Outcomes included neuropsychological domains derived from factor analysis and individual test scores. Deployed veterans performed significantly worse than non-deployed veterans on 2 of 8 factors (motor speed & sustained attention, analysis not corrected for multiple comparisons) and on 4 of 27 individual test variables (Trails A & B, California Verbal Learning Test – List B, and Continuous Performance Test sensitivity, with only Trails B surviving Bonferroni correction). Within deployed veterans, Khamisiyah exposure was negatively correlated with motor speed after controlling for emotional distress. Depressive symptoms and self-reported exposure to toxicants were independently and significantly associated with worse sustained attention. Other factors were also associated with self-reported exposures. The findings were not a result of differential effort across groups. Gulf War deployment is associated with subtle declines of motor speed and sustained attention, despite overall intact neuropsychological functioning. Evidence suggests that toxicant exposures influence both these functions, and depressive symptoms also influence attention. (JINS, 2009, 15, 717–729.)


Corresponding author

*Correspondence and reprint requests: Rosemary Toomey, Ph.D., Psychology Department, Boston University, 648 Beacon Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA. 02215. E-mail:


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