Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a chronic multisymptom illness with a central nervous system component such as memory deficits, neurological, and musculoskeletal problems. There are ample data that demonstrate that exposure to Gulf War (GW) agents, such as pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and pesticides such as permethrin (PER), were key contributors to the etiology of GWI post deployment to the Persian GW. In the current study, we examined the consequences of acute (10 days) exposure to PB and PER in C57BL6 mice. Learning and memory tests were performed at 18 days and at 5 months post-exposure. We investigated the relationship between the cognitive phenotype and neuropathological changes at short and long-term time points post-exposure. No cognitive deficits were observed at the short-term time point, and only minor neuropathological changes were detected. However, cognitive deficits emerged at the later time point and were associated with increased astrogliosis and reduction of synaptophysin staining in the hippocampi and cerebral cortices of exposed mice, 5 months post exposure. In summary, our findings in this mouse model of GW agent exposure are consistent with some GWI symptom manifestations, including delayed onset of symptoms and CNS disturbances observed in GWI veterans.
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