Do patients with fibromyalgia show abnormal neural responses to the observation of pain in others?
– Source: Neuroscience Research, February 15, 2013
By S.J. Lee, et al.
Chronic widespread pain is a hallmark of fibromyalgia (FM). Previous neuroimaging studies have reported that the pain neuro-matrix in patients with FM showed augmented activation in response to actual pain. However, the effect of observing pain in others among patients with FM remains poorly understood.
Both healthy female control subjects (n=24) and female patients with FM (n=23) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while observing a series of color pictures depicting others’ hands and feet being injured, and a matched set of control pictures that did not show any painful events.
Compared with healthy subjects, patients with FM showed a smaller neural response to pain-related versus neutral stimuli in several neural regions, including the thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, pre- and post-central gyrus, and supplementary motor area.
In contrast to augmented pain processing in response to actual experimental pain, patients with FM did not show an enhanced pain response but generally showed lesser activation in cortical regions known to play a role in processing of pain.
These hemodynamic alterations observed in patients with FM suggest that patients with chronic pain may empathize less with others in pain, possibly in order to lessen arousal and aversive self-oriented emotions.
Source: Neuroscience Research, February 15, 2013. By S.J. Lee, H.J. Song, J. Decety, J. Seo, S.H. Kim, S.H. Kim, E.J. Nam, S.K. Kim, S.W. Han, H.J. Lee, Y. Do, Y. Chang. Department of Psychiatry, Kyungpook National University School of Medicine, Daegu, Korea.