Neurobiology underlying fibromyalgia symptoms – Source: Pain Research and Treatment, Vol 2012

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Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain, clinical symptoms that include cognitive and sleep disturbances, and other abnormalities such as increased sensitivity to painful stimuli, increased sensitivity to multiple sensory modalities, and altered pain modulatory mechanisms.

Here we relate experimental findings of fibromyalgia symptoms to anatomical and functional brain changes.

• Neuroimaging studies show augmented sensory processing in pain-related areas, which, together with gray matter decreases and neurochemical abnormalities in areas related to pain modulation, supports the psychophysical evidence of altered pain perception and inhibition.

Gray matter decreases in areas related to emotional decision making and working memory suggest that cognitive disturbances could be related to brain alterations.

• Altered levels of neurotransmitters involved in sleep regulation link disordered sleep to neurochemical abnormalities.

Thus, current evidence supports the view that at least some fibromyalgia symptoms are associated with brain dysfunctions or alterations, giving the long-held “it is all in your head” view of the disorder a new meaning.

Source: Pain Research and Treatment, Vol 2012. DOI:10.1155/2012/585419, by Ceko M, Bushnell MC, Gracely RH. Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery, and Department of Anesthesia, McGill University, Montreal, Canada; Center for Neurosensory Disorders, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA.

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