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Papers of the Week

Papers: 23 Nov 2019 - 29 Nov 2019

Human Studies

2020 Apr




Hub disruption in patients with chronic neck pain: a graph analytical approach.


De Pauw R, Aerts H, Siugzdaite R, Meeus M, Coppieters I, Caeyenberghs K, Cagnie B
Pain. 2020 Apr; 161(4):729-741.
PMID: 31764388.


Chronic pain is known to alter the brain's network dynamics. These dynamics are often demonstrated by identifying alterations in the brain network topology. A common approach used for this purpose is graph theory. To date, little is known on how these potentially altered networks in chronic pain relate to the symptoms reported by these patients. Here, we applied a graph theoretical approach to identify network changes in patients suffering from chronic neck pain, a group that is often neglected in chronic pain research. Participants with chronic traumatic and non-traumatic neck pain were compared to healthy pain-free controls. They showed higher levels of self-reported symptoms of sensitization, higher levels of disability and impaired sensorimotor control. The brain suffering from chronic neck pain furthermore showed altered network properties in the posterior cingulate cortex, amygdala and pallidum compared to the healthy pain-free brain. These regions have been identified as brain hubs (i.e. regions that are responsible for orchestrating communication between other brain regions) and are therefore known to be more vulnerable in brain disorders including chronic pain. We were furthermore able to uncover associations between these altered brain network properties and the symptoms reported by patients. Our findings indicate that chronic neck pain patients reflect brain network alterations and that targeting the brain in patients might be of utmost importance.