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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 May 2024 - 31 May 2024

2024 Apr 30

Brain Sci




Investigating Descending Pain Regulation in Fibromyalgia and the Link to Altered Autonomic Regulation by Means of Functional MRI Data.


Hassanpour S, Algitami H, Umraw M, Merletti J, Keast B, Stroman PW


Fibromyalgia syndrome (FM) is a chronic pain condition that affects a significant portion of the population; yet, this condition is still poorly understood. Prior research has suggested that individuals with FM display a heightened sensitivity to pain and signs of autonomic dysfunction. Recent advances in functional MRI analysis methods to model blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) responses across networks of regions, and structural and physiological modeling (SAPM) have shown the potential to provide more detailed information about altered neural activity than was previously possible. Therefore, this study aimed to apply novel analysis methods to investigate altered neural processes underlying pain sensitivity in FM in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from the brainstem and spinal cord. Prior fMRI studies have shown evidence of functional differences in fibromyalgia (FM) within brain regions associated with pain’s motivational aspects, as well as differences in neural activity related to pain regulation, arousal, and autonomic homeostatic regulation within the brainstem and spinal cord regions. We, therefore, hypothesized that nociceptive processing is altered in FM compared to healthy controls (HCs) in the brainstem and spinal cord areas linked to autonomic function and descending pain regulation, including the parabrachial nuclei (PBN) and nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). We expected that new details of this altered neural signaling would be revealed with SAPM. The results provide new evidence of altered neural signaling in FM related to arousal and autonomic homeostatic regulation. This further advances our understanding of the altered neural processing that occurs in women with FM.