Using Brain Imaging to Study Effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Researchers will use MRI to identify structural brain changes that correlate with symptom relief in patients with IBS.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo are using functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for biomarkers that correlate with symptom changes in patients with IBS following treatment.

According to a news release from the University of Buffalo, a team of researchers led by Jeffrey M. Lackner, PsyD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic at Erie County Medical Center and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is going to use MRI to “look at biological mechanisms to discover what is going on in the brain that explains benefits achieved by teaching patients behavioral skills to control and reduce symptoms” of IBS.

Based on current thinking that “IBS symptoms result from dysregulation of brain-gut interactions that cause abnormal muscle contractions in the gut as well as heightened sensitivity to painful stimuli,” the researchers will conduct imaging studies to determine whether “behavioral treatments work by targeting areas of the brain that directly affect gut function and sensation.”

“Just as faulty wiring between the neural connection of the brain and gut can bring on symptoms, so learning new ways of thinking and behaving may 'rewire' brain-gut interactions, reducing pain and bowel symptoms,” Lackner said in the news release. This kind of “cutting-edge, translational research is going to help foster individualized, specific treatments for patients.”