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Papers: 20 Jun 2020 - 26 Jun 2020

2020 Jun 19

J Headache Pain



The neuro-pathophysiology of temporomandibular disorders-related pain: a systematic review of structural and functional MRI studies.


Yin Y, He S, Xu J, You W, Li Q, Long J, Luo L, Kemp GJ, Sweeney JA, Li F, Chen S, Gong Q
J Headache Pain. 2020 Jun 19; 21(1):78.
PMID: 32560622.


Chronic pain surrounding the temporomandibular joints and masticatory muscles is often the primary chief complaint of patients with temporomandibular disorders (TMD) seeking treatment. Yet, the neuro-pathophysiological basis underlying it remains to be clarified. Neuroimaging techniques have provided a deeper understanding of what happens to brain structure and function in TMD patients with chronic pain. Therefore, we performed a systematic review of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies investigating structural and functional brain alterations in TMD patients to further unravel the neurobiological underpinnings of TMD-related pain. Online databases (PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science) were searched up to August 3, 2019, as complemented by a hand search in reference lists. A total of 622 papers were initially identified after duplicates removed and 25 studies met inclusion criteria for this review. Notably, the variations of MRI techniques used and study design among included studies preclude a meta-analysis and we discussed the findings qualitatively according to the specific neural system or network the brain regions were involved in. Brain changes were found in pathways responsible for abnormal pain perception, including the classic trigemino-thalamo-cortical system and the lateral and medial pain systems. Dysfunction and maladaptive changes were also identified in the default mode network, the top-down antinociceptive periaqueductal gray-raphe magnus pathway, as well as the motor system. TMD patients displayed altered brain activations in response to both innocuous and painful stimuli compared with healthy controls. Additionally, evidence indicates that splint therapy can alleviate TMD-related symptoms by inducing functional brain changes. In summary, MRI research provides important novel insights into the altered neural manifestations underlying chronic pain in TMD.