Patients with fibromyalgia display less functional connectivity in the brain's pain inhibitory network

Molecular Pain, 05/01/2012

Patients with FM displayed less connectivity within the brain's pain inhibitory network during calibrated pressure pain, compared to healthy controls. The present study provides brain–imaging evidence on how brain regions involved in homeostatic control of pain are less connected in FM patients. It is possible that the dysfunction of the descending pain modulatory network plays an important role in maintenance of FM pain and the results may translate into clinical implications by using the functional connectivity of the pain modulatory network as an objective measure of pain dysregulation.

Methods

  • Authors performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 42 subjects; 14 healthy and 28 age–matched FM patients (2 patients per HC), during randomly presented, subjectively calibrated pressure pain stimuli.
  • A seed–based functional connectivity analysis of brain activity was performed.
  • The seed coordinates were based on the findings from the previous study, comparing the fMRI signal during calibrated pressure pain in FM and HC: the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) and thalamus.

Results

  • FM patients required significantly less pressure (kPa) to reach calibrated pain at 50 mm on a 0–100 visual analogue scale (p<.001, two–tailed).
  • During fMRI scanning, the rACC displayed significantly higher connectivity to the amygdala, hippocampus, and brainstem in healthy controls, compared to FM patients.
  • There were no regions where FM patients showed higher rACC connectivity.
  • Thalamus showed significantly higher connectivity to the orbitofrontal cortex in healthy controls but no regions showed higher thalamic connectivity in FM patients.

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