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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Aug 2022 - 2 Sep 2022


Front Neurosci


Multiple spatial scale mapping of time-resolved brain network reconfiguration during evoked pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.


Fanton S, Altawil R, Ellerbrock I, Lampa J, Kosek E, Fransson P, Thompson WH
Front Neurosci. 2022; 16:942136.
PMID: 36017179.


Functional brain networks and the perception of pain can fluctuate over time. However, how the time-dependent reconfiguration of functional brain networks contributes to chronic pain remains largely unexplained. Here, we explored time-varying changes in brain network integration and segregation during pain over a disease-affected area (joint) compared to a neutral site (thumbnail) in 28 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in comparison with 22 healthy controls (HC). During functional magnetic resonance imaging, all subjects received individually calibrated pain pressures corresponding to visual analog scale 50 mm at joint and thumbnail. We implemented a novel approach to track changes of task-based network connectivity over time. Within this framework, we quantified measures of integration (participation coefficient, PC) and segregation (within-module degree -score). Using these network measures at multiple spatial scales, both at the level of single nodes (brain regions) and communities (clusters of nodes), we found that PC at the community level was generally higher in RA patients compared to HC during and after painful pressure over the inflamed joint and corresponding site in HC. This shows that all brain communities integrate more in RA patients than in HC for time points following painful stimulation to a disease-relevant body site. However, the elevated community-related integration seen in patients appeared to not pertain uniquely to painful stimulation at the inflamed joint, but also at the neutral thumbnail, as integration and segregation at the community level did not differ across body sites in patients. Moreover, there was no specific nodal contribution to brain network integration or segregation. Altogether, our findings indicate widespread and persistent changes in network interaction in RA patients compared to HC in response to painful stimulation.