The relationship between physical activity and brain responses to pain in fibromyalgia

The Journal of Pain, 04/04/2011

McLoughlin MJ et al. – This study determined whether physical activity was predictive of brain responses to experimental pain in FM using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).


  • 34 participants (n = 16 FM; n = 18 Control) completed self-report and accelerometer measures of physical activity and underwent fMRI of painful heat stimuli


  • In FM patients, positive relationships between physical activity and brain responses to pain observed in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and posterior insula, regions implicated in pain regulation
  • Negative relationships found for primary sensory and superior parietal cortices, regions implicated in sensory aspects of pain
  • Greater physical activity significantly associated with decreased pain ratings to repeated heat stimuli for FM patients
  • Similar nonsignificant trend observed in controls
  • Brain responses to pain significantly different between FM patients categorized as low active and those categorized as high active
  • In controls, positive relationships observed in lateral prefrontal, anterior cingulate, and superior temporal cortices and posterior insula

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