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Perceptions of painful stimuli are not ‘exaggerated’ in fibromyalgia patients

  [ 30 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 18, 2012

Behavioral and neuronal investigations of hypervigilance in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome
– Source: PloS One, April 11, 2012

By Laura Tiermann, et al.

[Note: This controlled study suggests that - though fibromyalgia patients tend to experience more pain than others and often suspect they may be hyperattentive to pain - when equally painful stimuli are applied they do not consciously exaggerate or pay abnormally increased attention to the pain by comparison with healthy control subjects; nor do their brains exaggerate the severity of the inflicted pain vs controls. To read the free full text PDF of this article, click HERE.]

Painful stimuli are of utmost behavioral relevance and thereby affect attentional resources. In health, variable effects of pain on attention have been observed, indicating alerting as well as distracting effects of pain.

In the human brain, these effects are closely related to modulations of neuronal gamma oscillations. [A measure of conscious pain perception, according to an earlier study by this research team.]

As hypervigilance as an abnormal increase of attention to external stimuli has been implicated in chronic pain states, we assumed both attentional performance and pain-induced gamma oscillations to be altered in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). [Bolding added.]

We recorded electroencephalography from healthy subjects (n?=?22) and patients with FMS (n?=?19) during an attention demanding visual reaction time task. In 50% of the trials we applied painful laser stimuli.

The results of self-assessment questionnaires confirm that patients with FMS consider themselves hypervigilant towards pain as compared to healthy controls. [Bolding added.]

However, the experimental findings indicate that the effects of painful stimuli on attentional performance and neuronal gamma oscillations do not differ between patients and healthy subjects.

We further found a significant correlation between the pain-induced modulation of visual gamma oscillations and the pain-induced modulation of reaction times.

This relationship did not differ between groups either.

These findings confirm a close relationship between gamma oscillations and the variable attentional effects of pain, which appear to be comparable in health and disease.

Thus, our results do not provide evidence for a behavioral or neuronal manifestation of hypervigilance in patients with FMS.

Source: PloS One, April 11, 2012;7(4):e35068. PMID:22509383, by Tiemann L, Schulz E, Winkelmann A, Ronel J, Henningsen P, Ploner M. Department of Neurology, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.

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