Role of the Primary Motor Cortex in Fibromyalgia

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Role of the primary motor cortex in the maintenance and treatment of pain in fibromyalgia.

By L. Castillo Saavedra, M. Mendonca and F. Fregni

Abstract:

Fibromyalgia is a highly prevalent, debilitating disease, characterized by chronic widespread pain.

The mechanisms underlying pain are not completely understood, but it is believed to be associated with important neuroplastic changes in pain-related neural circuits. Although the involvement of the pain matrix in fibromyalgia is well established, another area that has been found to play a role in the maintenance and treatment of chronic pain is the primary motor cortex (M1).

Maladaptive plasticity of M1 is a common finding in patients with chronic pain and many studies in animal models and in human subjects have shown that modulation of the activity of this cortical area induces significant analgesic effects. Furthermore, studies in other chronic pain syndromes have found alterations in baseline characteristics of M1, including an increase in cortical excitability and an abnormally enhanced response to incoming sensory stimuli.

Given these findings, we hypothesize that M1 is a major modulator of pain in fibromyalgia and therefore its baseline activity reflects this strong feedback between M1 and pain-related neural areas. However, the feedback loop between M1 and the pain matrix is not enough to decrease pain in fibromyalgia per se, thus increasing its modulatory effect by engaging this network through different behavioral and modulatory techniques is a potentially beneficial treatment for pain in fibromyalgia.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Source: Medical Hypotheses, June 17, 2014. By L. Castillo Saavedra, M. Mendonca and F. Fregni. Spaulding Neuromodulation Center, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Nucleo de Neurociencias e Comportamento (NEC), Institute of Psychology, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil; 3Spaulding Neuromodulation Center, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Nucleo de Neurociencias e Comportamento (NEC), Institute of Psychology, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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