Word-finding impairment in veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War

Kristin Moffett, Bruce Crosson, Jeffrey S. Spence, Kimberly Case, Ilana Levy, Kaundinya Gopinath, Parina Shah, Aman Goyal, Yan Fang, Richard W. Briggs, John Hart, Anna Moore, Robert W. Haley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Approximately one quarter of 1991 Persian Gulf War Veterans experience cognitive and physiological sequelae that continue to be unexplained by known medical or psychological conditions. Difficulty coming up with words and names, familiar before the war, is a hallmark of the illness. Three Gulf War Syndrome subtypes have been identified and linked to specific war-time chemical exposures. The most functionally impaired veterans belong to the Gulf War Syndrome 2 (Syndrome 2) group, for which subcortical damage due to toxic nerve gas exposure is the suspected cause. Subcortical damage is often associated with specific complex language impairments, and Syndrome 2 veterans have demonstrated poorer vocabulary relative to controls. 11 Syndrome 1, 16 Syndrome 2, 9 Syndrome 3, and 14 age-matched veteran controls from the Seabees Naval Construction Battalion were compared across three measures of complex language. Additionally, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was collected during a covert category generation task, and whole-brain functional activity was compared between groups. Results demonstrated that Syndrome 2 veterans performed significantly worse on letter and category fluency relative to Syndrome 1 veterans and controls. They also exhibited reduced activity in the thalamus, putamen, and amygdala, and increased activity in the right hippocampus relative to controls. Syndrome 1 and Syndrome 3 groups tended to show similar, although smaller, differences than the Syndrome 2 group. Hence, these results further demonstrate specific impairments in complex language as well as subcortical and hippocampal involvement in Syndrome 2 veterans. Further research is required to determine the extent of language impairments in this population and the significance of altered neurologic activity in the aforementioned brain regions with the purpose of better characterizing the Gulf War Syndromes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Cognition
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Functional MRI
  • Hippocampus
  • Language disorders
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Persian Gulf syndrome
  • Putamen
  • Thalamus
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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