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What has functional connectivity and chemical neuroimaging in fibromyalgia taught us about the mechanisms and management of 'centralized' pain?
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Research suggests that fibromyalgia is a central, widespread pain syndrome supported by a generalized disturbance in central nervous system pain processing. Over the past decades, multiple lines of research have identified the locus for many functional, chronic pain disorders to the central nervous system, and the brain. In recent years, brain neuroimaging techniques have heralded a revolution in our understanding of chronic pain, as they have allowed researchers to non-invasively (or minimally invasively) evaluate human patients suffering from various pain disorders.
While many neuroimaging techniques have been developed, growing interest in two specific imaging modalities has led to significant contributions to chronic pain research. For instance, resting functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) is a recent adaptation of fMRI that examines intrinsic brain connectivity – defined as synchronous oscillations of the fMRI signal that occurs in the resting basal state. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) is a non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging technique that can quantify the concentration of multiple metabolites within the human brain.
This review will outline recent applications of the complementary imaging techniques – fcMRI and 1H-MRS – to improve our understanding of fibromyalgia pathophysiology and how pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies contribute to analgesia in these patients. A better understanding of the brain in chronic pain, with specific linkage as to which neural processes relate to spontaneous pain perception and hyperalgesia, will greatly improve our ability to develop novel therapeutics. Neuroimaging will play a growing role in the translational research approaches needed to make this a reality.
Source: Arthritis Research and Therapy, 2014. By Vitaly Napadow and Richard E Harris. Athinoula A Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.