Abstract: Neural correlates of the chronic fatigue syndrome–an fMRI study

Brain. 2004 Jul 7 [Epub ahead of print] De Lange FP, Kalkman JS, Bleijenberg G, Hagoort P, Vd Werf SP, Van Der Meer JW, Toni I. F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Summary Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by a debilitating fatigue of unknown aetiology. Patients who suffer from CFS report a variety of physical complaints as well as neuropsychological complaints. Therefore, it is conceivable that the CNS plays a role in the pathophysiology of CFS. The purpose of this study was to investigate neural correlates of CFS, and specifically whether there exists a linkage between disturbances in the motor system and CFS.

We measured behavioural performance and cerebral activity using rapid event-related functional MRI in 16 CFS patients and 16 matched healthy controls while they were engaged in a motor imagery task and a control visual imagery task. CFS patients were considerably slower on performance of both tasks, but the increase in reaction time with increasing task load was similar between the groups. Both groups used largely overlapping neural resources. However, during the motor imagery task, CFS patients evoked stronger responses in visually related structures. Furthermore, there was a marked between-groups difference during erroneous performance. In both groups, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex was specifically activated during error trials. Conversely, ventral anterior cingulate cortex was active when healthy controls made an error, but remained inactive when CFS patients made an error.

Our results support the notion that CFS may be associated with dysfunctional motor planning. Furthermore, the between-groups differences observed during erroneous performance point to motivational disturbances as a crucial component of CFS. PMID: 15240435 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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