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There appears to be a link between chronic PTSD in 9/11 responders and dementia, according to a new pilot study led by researchers at Stony Brook University and the Stony Brook World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program.

Forst responders
New York City firefighters and police officers at a 9/11 memorial (Photo by Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images)

The physical and cognitive health of 9/11 responders remains a concern for healthcare professionals who care for the thousands of responders, many of whom continue to experience conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

The study, is published early online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, tested neuronal biomarkers in the plasma of 34 responders. Half of them had symptoms of PTSD. The average age of the responders at blood draw was 53 years.

The investigators found that those with PTSD symptoms had changes in amyloid-beta levels and other neuronal alterations in blood often associated with neurodegenerative diseases of aging, including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, when compared to responders without PTSD.

According to lead researcher Sean Clouston, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Population and Preventive Medicine, Program in Public Health at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, the findings are preliminary yet significant enough to expand and replicate the analyses in the patient population.

Benjamin Luft, MD, co-author and Director of the WTC Health and Wellness Program, emphasized the need to carefully evaluate and monitor these patients to determine whether they develop clinical evidence of cognitive impairment – something that is not yet clear.

The research is supported in part by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

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