Summary: The researchers looked at the gray and white matter of the brain, studying the impacts of fibromyalgia. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the team detected a reduction in gray matter volume in the pain processing areas of fibromyalgia patients.
Additionally, the thalamus, a critical hub in the pain processing network, showed impaired signal transmission. Remarkably, the study suggested that these brain alterations could potentially be reversible, influenced by factors such as activity levels and mental health.
- The study found a reduction in gray matter volume in the pain processing areas of fibromyalgia patients.
- Impaired signaling has been observed in the thalamus of fibromyalgia patients, indicating altered pain signaling.
- Changes in brain structure correlated with patients’ pain perception and behavior, and intriguingly, could be influenced by factors such as physical activity and mental health, suggesting potential reversibility.
A research team led by Professor Martin Diers and Benjamin Mosch analyzed magnetic resonance imaging data from 23 patients with fibromyalgia and 21 healthy control subjects.
They wanted to look at the volume of gray matter, or nerve cells, in various areas of the brain that process pain, and the so-called white matter, which consists mostly of fiber connections between cells. nerves through which signals are transmitted.
“One of our goals was to find out if the directionality of water molecule diffusion differs in certain areas of the brain, in other words: if we can identify regional differences in signal transmission,” Benjamin explains. Mosch.
The researchers found changes in gray matter volume primarily in the pain network of the brain, that is, in the regions responsible for processing and evaluating pain.
“In certain regions responsible for pain inhibition, we observed a decrease in gray matter in patients compared to healthy individuals,” explains Benjamin Mosch. “In patients, the volume of these regions was significantly reduced.”
Regarding signal transmission, changes were found in the thalamus. The thalamus is considered an important node in the neural processing of pain.
White matter deviations in fibromyalgia patients compared to healthy controls indicate impaired conduction of pain signals in fibromyalgia patients.
Relationships between brain structure, perception and behavior
The team ultimately linked the results of the structural changes in the brain to the perceptual and behavioral characteristics of the study participants. The amount of decreased volume in a number of relevant brain regions is inversely proportional to the amount of perceived pain reported by patients.
The researchers made an interesting observation by analyzing the correlation between depressiveness or activity levels with the change in volume of certain areas of the brain. The volume of the so-called putamen correlated negatively with the expression of depressive symptoms and positively with the activity level of the participants.
“This indicates that changes in the brain may not be permanent, but they can be influenced; in other words, they could be reversible, for example through active daily life,” concludes Benjamin Mosch.
About this Neurology and Fibromyalgia Research News
Author: mike driessen
Contact: Meike Driessen – RUB
Picture: Image is credited to Neuroscience News
Original research: Access closed.
“Brain morphometric changes in fibromyalgia and the impact of psychometric and clinical factors: a volumetric and diffusion tensor imaging study” by Martin Diers et al. Arthritis research and therapy
Brain morphometric changes in fibromyalgia and the impact of psychometric and clinical factors: a volumetric and diffusion tensor imaging study
Previous studies have repeatedly found distinct brain morphometric changes in fibromyalgia (FM) patients, primarily affecting gray and white matter abnormalities in areas related to sensory and affective processing of pain. However, few studies have so far linked different types of structural changes and little is known about the behavioral and clinical determinants that might influence the emergence and progression of these changes.
We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to detect regional patterns of (micro)structural alterations in gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) in 23 patients with FM compared to 21 healthy controls (HC), while taking into account the influence of demographic, psychometric and clinical variables (age, severity of symptoms, duration of pain, heat pain threshold, depression scores).
VBM and DTI revealed striking patterns of brain morphometric changes in patients with FM. The bilateral middle temporal gyrus (MTG), parahippocampal gyrus, left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), right putamen, right caudate nucleus, and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) showed a significant decrease in GM volumes. In contrast, an increase in GM volume was observed in bilateral cerebellum and left thalamus. Beyond this, patients exhibited microstructural changes in WM connectivity in the medial lemniscus, corpus callosum, and pathways surrounding and connecting the thalamus. Discriminative sensory aspects of pain (pain intensity, pain thresholds) mainly showed negative correlations with GM in the bilateral putamen, pallidum, right medial cingulate cortex (MCC), and multiple thalamic substructures, whereas pain chronicity was negatively correlated with GM volumes in the right putamen. insular cortex and left Rolandic operculum. Affective and motivational aspects of pain (depressed mood, general activity) were related to GM and FA values in the bilateral putamen and thalamus.
Our results suggest a variety of distinct structural brain changes in FM, particularly affecting areas involved in pain and emotional processing such as the thalamus, putamen, and insula.