[Note: The motor cortex includes regions of the cerebral cortex involved in voluntary motor functions. It may be affected by chronic pain or injury so as to promote pain perception, as in phantom limb pain or some neuropathic pain, and studies show motor cortex stimulation can sometimes help such pain.]
We assessed cortical excitability and intracortical modulation systematically, by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex, in patients with fibromyalgia. In total 46 female patients with fibromyalgia and 21 normal female subjects, matched for age, were included in this study.
TMS was applied to the hand motor area of both hemispheres and motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded for the first interosseous muscle of the contralateral hand. Single-pulse stimulation was used for measurements of the rest motor threshold (RMT) and suprathreshold MEP. Paired-pulse stimulation was used to assess short intracortical inhibition (SICI) and intracortical facilitation (ICF).
Putative correlations were sought between changes in electrophysiological parameters and major clinical features of fibromyalgia, such as pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and catastrophizing.
• The RMT on both sides was significantly increased in patients with fibromyalgia, and suprathreshold MEP was significantly decreased bilaterally. However, these alterations, suggesting a global decrease in corticospinal excitability, were not correlated with clinical features.
• Patients with fibromyalgia also had lower ICF and SICI on both sides, than controls, these lower values being correlated with fatigue, catastrophizing and depression.
• These neurophysiological alterations were not linked to medication, as similar changes were observed in patients with or without psychotropic treatment.
In conclusion, fibromyalgia is associated with deficits in intracortical modulation involving both GABAergic and glutamatergic mechanisms, possibly related to certain aspects of the pathophysiology of this chronic pain syndrome.
Our data add to the growing body of evidence for objective and quantifiable changes in brain function in fibromyalgia.
Source: Pain, Mar 30, 2010. PMID: 20356675, by Mhalla A, deAndrade DC, Baudic S, Perrot S, Bouhassira D. INSERM U-987, CHU Ambroise Pare, Boulogne-Billancourt, France