Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

I got an email yesterday from Dr. James Baraniuk, the researcher who ran the Gulf War Illness research study I participated in back in October 2016. His paper has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

It’s interesting research, showing brain differences between GWI and CFS patients. Will it prove useful to me? Probably not. In all honesty, I have not had as many episodes of fatigue since I participated the study, in part due to my taking up running, I believe. I still have occasional cognitive issues (which really piss me off when they happen) but energy hasn’t been too big of a problem. That 65 mile bike ride I did with Travis and Kelly absolutely did wreck me the next day (or two), but I suppose it would do that for anyone else who hadn’t properly trained for it.

I’ve always said that the cognitive issues were the biggest issue for me. I wish I had the memory and mental clarity I had in my twenties. As they say, youth is wasted on the young!

Gulf War Illness (GWI) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have similar profiles of pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and exertional exhaustion. Post-exertional malaise suggests exercise alters central nervous system functions. Lumbar punctures were performed in GWI, CFS and control subjects after (i) overnight rest (nonexercise) or (ii) submaximal bicycle exercise. Exercise induced postural tachycardia in one third of GWI subjects (Stress Test Activated Reversible Tachycardia, START). The remainder were Stress Test Originated Phantom Perception (STOPP) subjects. MicroRNAs (miRNA) in cerebrospinal fluid were amplified by quantitative PCR. Levels were equivalent between nonexercise GWI (n?=?22), CFS (n?=?43) and control (n?=?22) groups. After exercise, START (n?=?22) had significantly lower miR-22-3p than control (n?=?15) and STOPP (n?=?42), but higher miR-9-3p than STOPP. All post-exercise groups had significantly reduced miR-328 and miR-608 compared to nonexercise groups; these may be markers of exercise effects on the brain. Six miRNAs were significantly elevated and 12 diminished in post-exercise START, STOPP and control compared to nonexercise groups. CFS had 12 diminished miRNAs after exercise. Despite symptom overlap of CFS, GWI and other illnesses in their differential diagnosis, exercise-induced miRNA patterns in cerebrospinal fluid indicated distinct mechanisms for post-exertional malaise in CFS and START and STOPP phenotypes of GWI.

Source: Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

Running pays off


I took my “biometric health screening” this week so I could get my 20% discount off of next year’s health insurance (a “workplace wellness” program that is, in fact, a sham) and I’m happy to say I crushed it. HDL Cholesterol up four points since last August, Triglycerides down 12 points. Total cholesterol the same.

What really surprised me were my vital signs. My blood pressure was so good the phlebotomist opted to check it again. I recorded 119/59. My resting heart rate was an astounding 42 BPM! All my life I’ve had good heart rates, sometimes dipping into the 40s when I was a healthy teenager, but I’d never seen one as low as 42 before.

All told, I would say my renewed exercise is paying off. 🙂

Instead of answers, more questions

Stethoscope-2
Yesterday, I crafted a long blog post detailing my time as a participant in this Gulf War Illness (GWI) research study but never had a chance to post it. I was about to say it seems I have some answers to my health issues. Sadly, after talking with lead researcher Dr. Baraniuk for several hours last night (yes, several hours. Does your doctor do that?) I’ve realized that there are actually more questions than answers now.

I took a week off of work and away from home and traveled to DC at partially my own expense to be tested by an expert in GWI. Dr. Baraniuk is a brilliant man – an expert in GWI – and I was tested, but I never expected that my medical issues would stump him of all people. My joy of yesterday is well-founded: Dr. Baraniuk has detected a legitimate, abnormal response in my nervous system which makes my body work extra hard and seems to occur in GWI-affected veterans (about 30% of those who served in the Persian Gulf War). This confirmation is a wonderful validation of the way I’ve been feeling for the past 25 years.
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If it’s Monday, this must be DC

Update 2017 Nov 11: Dr. Baraniuk’s paper has been published.

At the top of the “Exorcist” Steps in Georgetown. I climbed these steps to and from my appointment today.

At the top of the “Exorcist” Steps in Georgetown. I climbed these steps to and from my appointment today.


I’ve been on the road for a little while. Last week I was in Seattle for a work trip, spending most of my time in a windowless datacenter. My colleagues and I did get out to visit the Museum of Flight as well as the Living Computer Museum, both which were fascinating to us geeks!

I got home Friday night to spend the weekend with my family before hopping a train north to DC. I’ll be here for the next two days participating in a DoD-funded research study on Gulf War Illness (GWI). The research study involves a bunch of repetitive vital sign measurements, some MRI time, and intense exercise tests. I got through most of the medical forms, vital sign measurements, and interview today but the real fun starts tomorrow when I pedal my ass off on a stationary bike while wearing a SCUBA breather and an EKG harness, then spend an hour cooped up in an MRI while they look at my brain. Then I do it again on Wednesday and celebrate afterward with a lumbar puncture (aka, spinal tap). Yay?

After I had a long interview with the doctor in charge of the research study, he doesn’t seem convinced that I have traditional GWI (or it’s cousin, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS). He does find my symptoms curious, though, and wants to get me some answers. I don’t know what I’ll find out here, if anything, but I seem to be in the realm of experts. At least I know that my vitals are good and EKG looks “stellar,” in their words.

Being away from my family for two weeks in a row isn’t something I’ve done since my 2006 business trip to Australia, I believe. Can’t say I’m a fan of this much travel. My health is important, though, so I want to find out whatever I can so that I can keep up with my very active family.

One plus of being in DC now is that I had a great view of tonight’s Antares rocket launch which launched from Wallops Island, VA. I saw it from the grounds of the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial with the Potomac River in the foreground and excited kids and dads all around me. Made me wish my excited kids (and my wife) were here with me!

VA Pregnenolone study

For 12 weeks beginning in February, I participated in a VA-funded research study on using pregnenolone to address the effects of Gulf War Illness. Every week I would check in with a research associate, either in person or by phone, and answer a series of questions regarding my health and mental faculties. It involved driving to the Durham VA Medical Center about every other week for bloodwork and cognitive testing. I would also often return with a dose of pregnenolone for that week.

The cognitive tests were challenging and the worst part of the study. Bloodwork by comparison was a breeze, but when asked to study images of shapes and mentally rearrange them or to recall a varying, long list of fruits and vegetables I would begin to sweat. I hated those tests especially.
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Enhancing Cognitive Function with Pregnenolone – Life Extension

I’m participating in a VA research study on pregnenolone and its helpfulness in treating Gulf War Illness.

As a result of normal aging, key hormone levels decline, resulting in a detrimental impact on memory and cognitive function. Scientists believe that the hormone pregnenolone has vast potential for maintaining healthy cognitive function and may be “the most potent memory enhancer yet reported.”

Pregnenolone is the first hormone in the pathway that generates a host of key neurohormones in the brain that are known to affect nerve cell growth and to modulate various moods. Pregnenolone therefore has a dominant effect in a wide range of nervous system functions. This is borne out in research that has demonstrated pregnenolone’s ability to reduce the risk of dementia and improve memory, while also alleviating anxiety and fighting depression. Increasing cognitive function is a key goal for any aging baby boomer.

As natural levels of pregnenolone fall, ensuring optimal levels may represent a crucial cornerstone to every adult’s cognitive wellness program.

Source: Enhancing Cognitive Function with Pregnenolone – Life Extension

Thanksgiving at sea

It was Thanksgiving in 1991, a time near the end of my tour aboard the USS Elliot (DD-967). We were nearing the end of our three-month Persian Gulf deployment, bored nearly shitless with endless tacking around the warm bathtub known as the Persian Gulf. I was on the far side of the world from my home, sick of looking at skies that were either hazy with desert heat and sand or blackened with the smoke from still-burning fires in Iraq’s oil fields. It seemed the end of my enlistment couldn’t get here fast enough.

In spite of my homesickness, in spite of the boredom of the Gulf, in spite of all the griping I could have been doing that day, I knew down on the mess decks awaited a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, ham, stuffing, and the works. I was healthy and fit and (like my shipmates) took great cooks, air conditioning and my bed with me everywhere I deployed.
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