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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 Mar 2023 - 31 Mar 2023

Clinical, Pediatric

Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology


2023 Mar 23

J Pain


Changes in Brain GABA and Glutamate and Improvements in Physical Functioning Following Intensive Pain Rehabilitation in Youth With Chronic Pain.


Pigott T, McPeak A, de Chastelain A, DeMayo MM, Rasic N, Rayner L, Noel M, Miller JV, Harris AD


Intensive interdisciplinary pain treatments (IIPT) have been developed to treat youth with unmanaged chronic pain and functional disability. Dysregulation of metabolites gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate are thought to play a role in the chronification of pain due to imbalances in inhibition and excitation in adults. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), we investigated the effect of IIPT on GABA and Glx (glutamate + glutamine) in 2 pain-related brain regions: the left posterior insula (LPI) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Data were collected in 23 youth (mean age = 16.09 ± 1.40, 19 female) at entry and discharge from a hospital-based outpatient IIPT. GABA and Glx were measured using GABA-edited MEGA-PRESS and analyzed using Gannet. Physical measures including a 6-minute walk test were recorded, and patients completed the PLAYSelf Physical Literacy Questionnaire, PROMIS Pain Interference Questionnaire, and Functional Disability Inventory. LPI GABA (P < .05) significantly decreased, but not ACC GABA (P > .05), following IIPT. There were no significant Glx changes (P > .05). The decrease in LPI GABA was associated with increased distance in the 6-minute walk test (P < .001). IIPT may decrease GABAergic inhibitory tone within the LPI, thereby promoting plasticity and contributing to improvements in physical outcomes with IIPT. Perspective: Regional GABA changes are associated with a reduction in pain interference and improvement in physical function in youth following intensive pain rehabilitation. GABA may serve as a possible biomarker for IIPT; and may also further aid in the development of IIPT, and other treatments for chronic pain in youth.