Office of Research & Development

Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Biorepository Brain Bank

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Biorepository Brain Bank

What are the disorders of Veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War?

Approximately 697,000 men and women served in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Nearly 250,000 Veterans have come down with illnesses in the 25 years since returning from the Gulf. A prominent condition affecting Gulf War Veterans is a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems. VA refers to these illnesses as "chronic multisymptom illness" and "undiagnosed illnesses." We prefer not to use the term "Gulf War Syndrome' when referring to medically unexplained symptoms reported by Gulf War Veterans. Why? Because symptoms vary widely. These illnesses include:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders
  • Undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms that may include but are not limited to:
    Abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders and sleep disturbances

The exact cause of these disorders is not yet known. Researchers have been studying various hazards in the environment that Veterans experienced during their Gulf War service.

What is the Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Biorepository Brain Bank?

The GWVI biorepository is a human tissue bank that collects, processes, stores and gives out specimens and health information for future scientific research studies. Veterans enrolled in the GWVIB brain bank are asked to complete surveys about their health every six months, and upon their death, donate their brain and other body tissue for future Gulf War research. Veterans can begin helping now by enrolling today, even though the tissue donation may occur many years from now.

Who can take part in this study?

A U.S. Navy F-14A Tomcat from Fighter Squadron 211 flies over burning Kuwaiti oil wells during Operation Desert Storm. The VA GWVIB is seeking all Veterans from the 1990-1991 Gulf War era, who are interested in donating their brain and other body tissue after death for future research on the causes, progression and treatment of disorders of Veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War. Research of this type must compare persons who are healthy with those who have health problems. As a result, all Veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War eras may sign up for, or take part in, this study. This includes Gulf War era Veterans with symptoms and/or illnesses as well as those who do not have symptoms and/or illnesses. Veterans who were not deployed to the Gulf are also eligible to enroll.

Scientists studying neurological disorders must compare brain tissue donated by people affected by these diseases with tissue from people who are not affected by them in order to understand the causes of these conditions, if you do not have a neurological disease or disorder please click here for information on joining the VA Biorepository Brain Bank.

A Living Study

A check of the Mark 84 2,000-pound bombs is conducted before loading aboard 401st Tactical Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft during Operation Desert Storm. Source: (DF-ST-92-07650)It is never too soon to enroll in the GWVI Brain Bank. The health information you provide now will support current research, and upon your death, make your tissue donation even more valuable for future research. However, pre-enrollment is not required. Consent can be given by your next-of-kin immediately following death. We encourage interested individuals to talk with their families and friends about their intentions to be a brain donor. Talking about these issues now helps to reduce stress on your family at the time of your death.

What can I expect if I take part in this study?

Dressed in rain suits, gloves and M-17A1 protective masks, three soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division walk around their camp to acclimate their bodies to the heat of the Saudi summer during Operation Desert Shield. (by Staff F. Lee Corkran)To take part in this study, you will be asked to review and sign a consent form. In addition to your consent, we will also need the consent of your next-of-kin (e.g., spouse, child, sibling) because this person will need to confirm your decision to donate after your passing. After signing the consent, we will ask you to fill out a questionnaire about your health history. We will update this information every six months to a year by telephone, by mail or by having you fill out a survey on an internet web site. The telephone call and questionnaire should each require around 30 minutes to complete. We will also look at your VA medical record (if you have one) to collect information about your health from time to time and add that information to the GWVIB database so that we can follow your health and care over time. This will not require any of your time. All your information that we collect will be labeled with a code that does not identify you directly.

The body tissue that you donate will be collected at the time of your death and will not require any surgery or collection procedures at this time. Upon death, we would make arrangements for the donation. We are responsible for all costs related to your organ donation as well as transportation of your body to and from the site where the donation is recovered. However, we cannot assume the usual costs of the funeral, burial or cremation. If you have questions about VA death benefits please speak with your local benefits representative or visit the Veterans Benefits Administration web page for more information. The procedure will be done professionally and with dignity at the closest VA Medical Center or by medical professionals at another facility if the VA facility is unable to perform this in a timely manner. An open casket viewing is possible after donation if that is your family's wish. If your next of kin requests it, a copy of the pathology report will be provided when it becomes available.

What are the potential benefits of taking part?

Newly arrived troops march to a processing area after disembarking from an aircraft during Operation Desert Shield.  (by Staff Sgt. F. Lee Corkran)We hope that you consider such an important organ donation, but you are under no duty to do so. Your VA benefits and your VA health care cannot be influenced in any way by your saying yes or saying no to take part in this study. Your taking part in this study will not benefit you directly. However, your donation may help future efforts in the research of disorders of Veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War. If you think that you might be interested in this generous after-death organ donation, the following information will explain what is involved for you and your family. You may also download our informational brochure here

Thank you for thinking about this important issue. We have included some answers to frequently asked questions here .

We are always happy to answer any questions you or your family may have. During working hours, we can be reached at our toll free number: 1-855-561-7827.

More information about disorders of Veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf war and related VA benefits and programs can be found here .


During work hours, we can be reached at 855-561-7827 .


PHONE: Veterans CrisisLine-Badge-Phone

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For additional information about disorders that affect Veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War please visit the Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses page.

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Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.