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Studies Underway on 9/11 First Responder Brain Abnormalities Resembling Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

A research group at a New York University is about to conduct an in-depth study on the cognitive state of 9/11 first responders, now that two recent trial studies have shown that their brains bear biomarkers similar to those found in Alzheimer’s patients.

Professor Sean Clouston of Stony Brook University and his research team received in October a $7.9 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health, to conduct a five-year study on more than 1,000 first responders.

In its two recent studies, the group used MRI imaging to assess the brain matter of 9/11 first responders between age 45 and 65. Many of those studied showed atrophy in the brain cortex, which the researchers said is very rare in people of this age group. Many WTC first responders have a “brain age” that is about 10 years older than the general population, they said. Furthermore, several of the participants showed signs of protein changes within their bodies consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.

The new NIH-funded study will focus on first responders who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and will use “blood-based biomarker profiling” and brain scans to study the relationship between exposure to toxins at Ground Zero and cognitive decline. The researchers see PTSD as “a useful predictor of increased cognitive and physical symptoms consistent with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease,” Clouston said. “Our study seeks to examine the extent to which PTSD might trigger” Alzheimer’s disease in these 9/11 first responders.

Right now, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not covered by the WTC Health Program. As responders age, these conditions may be become more prevalent among the community. If the study shows they can be linked to exposure on 9/11, they may be included as covered conditions for the Victim Compensation Fund.

At Barasch & McGarry, we avidly await the outcome of the new study. If you have questions about the Sept. 11/Alzheimer’s studies described here, or if you have any need whatsoever regarding 9/11 health and compensation programs, call our New York attorneys at 888-351-9421 or you can contact us online. We do not charge any fee for an initial consultation.

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