Brain Scans Rveal Activity in Pain Regions of Fibromyalgia Patients

October 18, 2009
Bradley Schmidt

All sensory areas were activated in the brains of fibromyalgia sufferers during pain stimuli according to brain scans made by University of Michigan researchers. Healthy controls showed littled to no activity.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Health system investigated the cerebral response to pain in individuals with fibromyalgia using brain scans and comparing the imagery to scans made of healthy controls.

Not surprisingly, the scans showed “pressure stimuli resulted in extensive activation of pain matrix regions in individuals with fibromyalgia,” compared with almost no activity in health subjects.

The study, say the authors, “reconfirms an augmented involvement of the pain matrix in the processing of evoked pain in fibromyalgia and supports the role of central mechanisms being responsible for the pain of fibromyalgia.”

Study author Rupal Bhavsar was kind enough to discuss this study further with MDNG:

What was the impetus behind this study?

“We wanted to compare how pain matrices differ in patients versus controls because, as we know, these patients feel more pain and there’s no standard measure for it. By using brain imaging, we can non-invasively measure their pain and identify cerebral pain areas.”

What areas of the brain were activated during a pain episode?

“What we see through the study are that all sensory areas are activated, the secondary somatosensory cortex, parietal lobe, all are involved in pain. We see stronger neuronal activity in those areas compared to controls, who did not show any activity in the pain regions.”

How is this research going to inform studies going forward?

“Based on this finding, we can target treatments so that we are able to measure the pain response. Our center currently does some treatment studies and we would perform the imaging prior to a drug or therapeutic trial, then after cognitive behavior therapy or acupuncture, scan those subjects again 12 weeks later, and compare the similar regions activation to see whether their pain has gone down or not.