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Fibromyalgia Characterized by Altered Gray and White Matter in Brain

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Editor’s comment: Brain morphometry involves the measurement of brain structures and their changes during development, aging, disease and evolution.  This study found altered gray and white matter measurements in the cerebellar and frontal cortical regions of the brains of people with fibromyalgia. The question remains whether these changes cause the pain of FM or are the result of the pain.

Note: You may read the full text of this article free HERE.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by altered frontal and cerebellar structural covariance brain networks.


Altered brain morphometry has been widely acknowledged in chronic pain, and recent studies have implicated altered network dynamics, as opposed to properties of individual brain regions, in supporting persistent pain. Structural covariance analysis determines the inter-regional association in morphological metrics, such as gray matter volume, and such structural associations may be altered in chronic pain.

In this study, voxel-based morphometry structural covariance networks were compared between fibromyalgia patients (N = 42) and age- and sex-matched pain-free adults (N = 63). We investigated network topology using spectral partitioning, which can delineate local network submodules with consistent structural covariance. We also explored white matter connectivity between regions comprising these submodules and evaluated the association between probabilistic white matter tractography and pain-relevant clinical metrics.

  • Our structural covariance network analysis noted more connections within the cerebellum for fibromyalgia patients, and more connections in the frontal lobe for healthy controls.

  • For fibromyalgia patients, spectral partitioning identified a distinct submodule with cerebellar connections to medial prefrontal and temporal and right inferior parietal lobes, whose gray matter volume was associated with the severity of depression in these patients.

  • Volume for a submodule encompassing lateral orbitofrontal, inferior frontal, postcentral, lateral temporal, and insular cortices was correlated with evoked pain sensitivity.

  • Additionally, the number of white matter fibers between specific submodule regions was also associated with measures of evoked pain sensitivity and clinical pain interference.

Hence, altered gray and white matter morphometry in cerebellar and frontal cortical regions may contribute to, or result from, pain-relevant dysfunction in chronic pain patients.

Source: NeuroImage: Clinical, March 4, 2015. By Hyungjun Kima, Jieun Kima, Marco L. Loggiaa, Christine Cahalanc, Ronald G. Garciaa, Mark G. Vangela, Ajay D. Wasane, Robert R. Edwards and Vitaly Napadow.

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One thought on “Fibromyalgia Characterized by Altered Gray and White Matter in Brain”

  1. IanH says:

    what these results would look like in children with FM.
    I suspect these brain morphometry changes are the result of the chronic phase of neuro-inflammatory disease.

    It is important to investigate the illness in children or in young adults in the very early course of the disease to identify if these changes are early or late in the course of the illness or are the result of chronicity.

    I also note once again that another FM study is not controlling for ME, i.e. how many of the subjects fit the criteria for ME?

    another factor to control in FM is the amount of subjects who have identifiable peripheral nerve injury. Peripheral nerve injuries can cause central neuro-inflammation via chronically activated microglia or astroglia.

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