Low putamen activity associated with poor reward sensitivity in childhood chronic fatigue syndrome

By K. Mizuno et al.


Motivational signals influence a wide variety of cognitive processes and components of behavioral performance. Cognitive dysfunction in patients with childhood chronic fatigue syndrome (CCFS) may be closely associated with a low motivation to learn induced by impaired neural reward processing. However, the extent to which reward processing is impaired in CCFS patients is unclear. The aim of the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to determine whether brain activity in regions related to reward sensitivity is impaired in CCFS patients.

fMRI data were collected from 13 CCFS patients (mean age, 13.6 ± 1.0 years) and 13 healthy children and adolescents (HCA) (mean age, 13.7 ± 1.3 years) performing a monetary reward task. Neural activity in high- and low-monetary-reward conditions was compared between CCFS and HCA groups. Severity of fatigue and the reward obtained from learning in daily life were evaluated by questionnaires. Activity of the putamen was lower in the CCFS group than in the HCA group in the low-reward condition, but not in the high-reward condition. Activity of the putamen in the low-reward condition in CCFS patients was negatively and positively correlated with severity of fatigue and the reward from learning in daily life, respectively.

We previously revealed that motivation to learn was correlated with striatal activity, particularly the neural activity in the putamen. This suggests that in CCFS patients low putamen activity, associated with altered dopaminergic function, decreases reward sensitivity and lowers motivation to learn.

Source: Mizuno K, Kawatani J, Tajima K, Sasaki AT, Yoneda T, Komi M, Hirai T, Tomoda A, Joudoi T, Watanabe Y. Low putamen activity associated with poor reward sensitivity in childhood chronic fatigue syndrome. Neuroimage Clin. 2016 Sep 26;12:600-606. eCollection 2016

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2 thoughts on “Low putamen activity associated with poor reward sensitivity in childhood chronic fatigue syndrome”

  1. dfwmom says:

    My daughter has had ccfs and primary juvenile fibromyalgia since infancy. Yet, she studies any and every subject, just for fun. She has a very strong motivation to learn, and sets herself tasks, such as learning a foreign language – for pleasure. If that’s not reward sensitivity, then what is? Her mind is active. It is her body that is not active. So, having lived with a case of CCFS, I find this study to be about as believable as the PACE trials, and I hope it’s not for similar reasons.

  2. dfwmom says:

    Only 13 children with CFS were included in the study. Another question that I have is the criteria used for identifying children with CFS.

    All in all, I feel that the jury is still out on this.

    Another thing I’d be interested in seeing is a comparison if these same measures, in a person who is well, and then later when the same person has the flu. If children with CFS have a low motivation to learn, my experience is that it would be a symptom associated with the severity of illness — the less energy and the more brain fog a child has, the less motivated they are to attempt new learning. It’s difficult to learn, when you can barely remember your name. That’s not a motivation problem. That’s a functional brain problem.

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