Vietnam Veterans Could Hold Clue to Future for Today’s Soldiers

Apr. 25, 2013
URMC Participating in a Study on Connection between Injuries and Alzheimer’s

Since 2001, more than two million service members have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and studies indicate nearly a third of them have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or both. The University of Rochester Medical Center is part of an investigation into whether these injuries put the soldiers at greater risk for a future battle -- against Alzheimer’s Disease. As they begin the study, researchers are turning to veterans of the Vietnam War for help.

“In order to predict what might happen, we wanted to look at a cohort that is about 40 years older to see what the brains of those individuals look like,” says Anton P. Porsteinsson, M.D., who is overseeing the study at URMC. “Nobody paid much attention to this back in the Vietnam era, but do TBI and PTSD impact your risk of memory disease? Could this point toward additional studies into treatment and prevention of the long-term effects of these injuries?”

The University of California at San Francisco is contacting Vietnam War Veterans who were diagnosed with duty-related TBI, PTSD, or concussions. Healthy volunteers, ages 50 to 90, are also needed. Selected veterans from this region will come to URMC to receive a medical exam and undergo blood and cognitive testing, neuroimaging of the brain, and a lumbar puncture. After a year, participants will be given a follow-up exam and some repeat testing.

URMC was chosen as a clinical site for the study because of its advanced neuroimaging capabilities, robust Alzheimer’s Disease research program, and the sizeable concentration of Vietnam War Veterans living within a 150-mile radius. Yale University, Columbia University, and Mayo Clinic are among 18 other data collection sites. The $6.5 million Study of Brain Aging in Vietnam War Veterans is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. For information on participating in the study, call 1-800-773-4883.