Iraqi refugees at high risk of brain and nervous system disorders

April 12, 2011

New research suggests that a high number of Iraqi refugees are affected by brain and nervous system disorders, including those who are victims of torture and the disabled. The late-breaking research will be presented at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, April 9 – 16, 2011, in Honolulu.

The United Nations estimates that there are several thousand Iraqi living in the United States and the number is rising yearly.

"There are an estimated 40 million displaced refugees worldwide and the number of Iraqi refugees continues to grow due to conflicts in the Middle East," said Farrah Mateen, MD, with the Departments of Neurology and International Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Our study presents the first results of a large national pilot project by the United Nations to monitor neurological disease in displaced people."

In Jordan in 2010, the United Nations (UN) reported that there were 36,953 registered Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers with 7,621 of those receiving health assistance.

For the study, researchers used a UN database in Jordan. A total of 1,295 refugees were reported to have a brain or disorder, or four percent of all registered Iraqi refugees. Of those, 10 percent were disabled.

The study found that five percent of refugees with brain or reported a history of torture compared to 3.1 percent of those without a diagnosed brain or nervous system disorder. The most common diagnoses were epilepsy (30 percent), back pain (27 percent) and headache (nearly 12 percent).

Neurologists were involved in 14 percent, or 179, of these cases and health education was available to about 11 percent of refugees with disorders.

"Our study highlights the great need for neurological health services, health education regarding neurological disorders and long-term disease management for refugees from war-torn countries," said Mateen.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Imaging technique maps serotonin activity in living brains

October 20, 2016

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's partly responsible for feelings of happiness and for mood regulation in humans. This makes it a common target for antidepressants, which block serotonin from being reabsorbed by neurons ...

ALS study reveals role of RNA-binding proteins

October 20, 2016

Although only 10 percent of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases are hereditary, a significant number of them are caused by mutations that affect proteins that bind RNA, a type of genetic material. University of California ...

Exercise may help ward off memory decline

October 19, 2016

Exercise may be associated with a small benefit for elderly people who already have memory and thinking problems, according to new research published in the October 19, 2016, online issue of Neurology, a medical journal of ...

Overcoming egocentricity increases self-control

October 19, 2016

Neurobiological models of self-control usually focus on brain mechanisms involved in impulse control and emotion regulation. Recent research at the University of Zurich shows that the mechanism for overcoming egocentricity ...

Going for a run could improve cramming for exams

October 19, 2016

Ever worried that all the information you've crammed in during a study session might not stay in your memory? The answer might be going for a run, according to a new study published in Cognitive Systems Research.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 12, 2011
Any link to all that depleted uranium from spent shells scattered throughout the Iraqi desert?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.