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Abstract: Unconscious amygdalar fear conditioning in a subset of chronic fatigue syndrome patients

  [ 93 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • December 11, 2002

Med Hypotheses 2002 Nov;59(6):727-35  Gupta A.  Robinson College, University of Cambridge, CB3 9AN, Cambridge, UK

Here, a novel hypothesis for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is proposed. CFS may be a neurophysiological disorder focussing on the amygdala. During a 'traumatic' neurological event often involving acute psychological stress combined with a viral infection or other chemical or physiological stressor, a conditioned network or 'cell assembly' may be created in the amygdala.

The unconscious amygdala may become conditioned to be chronically sensitised to negative symptoms arising from the body. Negative signals from the viscera or physiological, chemical and dietary stressors, become conditioned stimuli and the conditioned response is a chronic sympathetic outpouring from the amygdala via various brain pathways including the hypothalamus.

This cell assembly then produces the CFS vicious circle, where an unconscious negative reaction to symptoms causes immune reactivation/dysfunction, chronic sympathetic stimulation, leading to sympathetic dysfunction, mental and physical exhaustion, and a host of other distressing symptoms and secondary complications. And these are exactly the symptoms that the amygdala and associated limbic structures are trained to monitor and respond to, perpetuating a vicious circle.

Recovery from CFS may involve projections from the medial prefrontal cortex to the amygdala, to control the amygdala's expressions.I shall firstly discuss predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors involved in the possible etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), followed by the patient's experience of the illness. Finally, I shall look at a suggested explanation for the symptoms of CFS.

PMID: 12445517 [PubMed - in process]

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