In a pilot study, 14 Gulf War veterans were randomly selected from a large list of those with unexplained illness, to compare the functional integrity of the peripheral and central nervous system with a group of 13 healthy civilian control subjects using predetermined outcome measures. The controls were matched closely for age, sex, handedness, and physical activity. Outcome measures included scoring of symptoms and clinical neurological signs, quantitative sensory testing of heat, cold and vibration sensibilities, motor and sensory nerve conduction studies on upper and lower limbs, needle EMG of distal and proximal muscles and multimodality evoked potential (visual, brainstem, and somatosensory) studies. Three measurements, all related to peripheral nerve function (cold threshold (P = 0.0002), sural nerve latency (P = 0.034), and median nerve sensory action potential (P = 0.030) were abnormal in the veterans compared with the controls. There may be a dysfunction in the veterans but more studies are required to investigate the findings further and to characterise the dysfunction if confirmed.
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