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9/11 Responders at Greater Risk of Dementia, Studies Show

August, 2020

Two new studies led by researchers at Stony Brook University suggest that 9/11 first responders are at risk for developing dementia. The studies observed individuals with signs of cognitive impairment who showed neuroradiological abnormalities and changes in their blood similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s patients and other patients with related dementias. The first study, titled “Reduced cortical thickness in World Trade Center responders with cognitive impairment” (Clouston, et al.), showed that many 9/11 responders with CI have reduced gray matter thickness in their brains that is consistent with neurodegenerative conditions and that these individuals’ brains are, on average, about 10 years “older” than those of the general population. The second study, which is unpublished as of the date of publication, showed that certain 9/11 first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild cognitive impairment had protein changes in their blood consistent with Alzheimer’s. 

PTSD and other mental health conditions are covered conditions under the World Trade Center Health Program. For more information, please contact a WTC attorney

Reduced Cortical Thickness Shown in 9/11 First Responders with Cognitive Impairments

The Clouston study is the first to use MRI imaging to examine the brains of 9/11 first responders. The goal of the study was to determine whether 9/11 first responders developed cognitive impairments due to changes in their brains caused by exposure to neurotoxins from Ground Zero. The study’s researchers studied the brain cortex, which is responsible for cognition, to measure its cortical thickness — a measure of brain atrophy commonly used in studies of Alzheimer’s patents. The patients ranged in age from 45 to 65, an age range in which cortical atrophy is rare in the general population. MRI imaging of the patients showed that areas of the cortex are atrophied in many 9/11 first responders with cognitive impairments. The study’s authors state that the level of reduction in the cortical thickness of 9/11 first responders is similar to that in patients with dementia and is a possible indicator of early-stage dementia in those patients. 

First Responders with PTSD Also at Risk for Developing Cognitive Impairments

The second study analyzed proteins in the blood of male 9/11 first responders with an average age of 55 and who suffered PTSD or other cognitive impairments. Each of the 276 proteins identified controls various processes related to neurological diseases, cellular regulation, immunology, cardiovascular, inflammatory, developmental, and metabolism functions. The researchers found that 9/11 first responders with mild cognitive impairments also had proteinopathy, a problematic change in the proteome that is consistent with Alzheimer’s and other related conditions. The study’s authors stated that neuroinflammation may be a mechanism by which 9/11 first responders with PTSD may be at a higher risk of developing cognitive impairments. 

Contact a WTC Lawyer for More Information about Benefits Available to 9/11 First-Responders

If you suffer from 9/11-related PTSD and related psychological conditions, you may be eligible for medical care and treatment under the World Trade Center Health Program. For more information, please contact a WTC lawyer at Pitta & Baione by using our online form or calling us at 844-982-2667.