SUMMARY: In this study, researchers set out to get a better idea of the relationship between regions of the brain and immune activity, specifically in those with fibromyalgia. To measure this, they used a method called butanol positron emission tomography. By zeroing in on portions of the brain that registered activity correlating to natural killer cell activity, the researchers identified the culprit brain regions. Although the study sampled a relatively small number of FM patients (five), the association between the immune system with the portion of the brain involved in pain perception, emotion and attention, was striking. The findings provide clues as to how the brain understands and communicates immune activity to our body, as well as its regulatory role in the whole process.
ABSTRACT: To study relations between neural and immune activity in patients with chronic pain, we correlated regional cerebral blood flow measured with [(15)O]butanol positron emission tomography to immune function in five patients with fibromyalgia. Partly replicating previous data in healthy volunteers, natural killer cell activity correlated negatively with right hemisphere activity in the secondary somatosensory and motor cortices as well as the thalamus. Moreover, natural killer cell activity was negatively and bilaterally related to activity in the posterior cingulate cortex. Thus, immune parameters were related to activity in brain areas involved in pain perception, emotion, and attention. Implicated from a small study population, these strong neuro-immune associations are discussed in view of recent findings concerning mechanisms and adaptive values in immuno-cortical communication and regulation.
“Neuroimmune relations in patients with fibromyalgia: a positron emission tomography study,” Neurosci Lett 2000 Mar 24;282(3):193-196