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Papers of the Week

Papers: 7 Jan 2023 - 13 Jan 2023

Human Studies

2022 Dec 27

Neuroimage Clin


White matter microstructure predicts measures of clinical symptoms in chronic back pain patients.


Robertson JW, Aristi G, Hashmi JA
Neuroimage Clin. 2022 Dec 27; 37:103309.
PMID: 36621020.


Chronic back pain (CBP) has extensive clinical and social implications for its sufferers and is a major source of disability. Chronic pain has previously been shown to have central neural factors underpinning it, including the loss of white matter (WM), however traditional methods of analyzing WM microstructure have produced mixed and unclear results. To better understand these factors, we assessed the WM microstructure of 50 patients and 40 healthy controls (HC) using diffusion-weighted imaging. The data were analyzed using fixel-based analysis (FBA), a higher-order diffusion modelling technique applied to CBP for the first time here. Subjects also answered questionnaires relating to pain, disability, catastrophizing, and mood disorders, to establish the relationship between fixelwise metrics and clinical symptoms. FBA determined that, compared to HC, CBP patients had: 1) lower fibre density (FD) in several tracts, specifically the right anterior and bilateral superior thalamic radiations, right spinothalamic tract, right middle cerebellar peduncle, and the body and splenium of corpus callosum; 2) higher FD in the genu of corpus callosum; and 3) lower FDC – a combined fibre density and cross-section measure – in the bilateral spinothalamic tracts and right anterior thalamic radiation. Exploratory correlations showed strong negative relationships between fixelwise metrics and clinical questionnaire scores, especially pain catastrophizing. These results have important implications for the intake and processing of sensory data in CBP that warrant further investigation.