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Papers of the Week

Papers: 11 Mar 2023 - 17 Mar 2023

Basic Science

Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Orofacial/Head Pain


Front Neurosci



Neurometabolite alterations in traumatic brain injury and associations with chronic pain.


Robayo LE, Govind V, Salan T, Cherup NP, Sheriff S, Maudsley AA, Widerström-Noga E


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to a variety of comorbidities, including chronic pain. Although brain tissue metabolite alterations have been extensively examined in several chronic pain populations, it has received less attention in people with TBI. Thus, the primary aim of this study was to compare brain tissue metabolite levels in people with TBI and chronic pain ( = 16), TBI without chronic pain ( = 17), and pain-free healthy controls ( = 31). The metabolite data were obtained from participants using whole-brain proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (H-MRSI) at 3 Tesla. The metabolite data included -acetylaspartate, -inositol, total choline, glutamate plus glutamine, and total creatine. Associations between -acetylaspartate levels and pain severity, neuropathic pain symptom severity, and psychological variables, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and post-concussive symptoms, were also explored. Our results demonstrate -acetylaspartate, -inositol, total choline, and total creatine alterations in pain-related brain regions such as the frontal region, cingulum, postcentral gyrus, and thalamus in individuals with TBI with and without chronic pain. Additionally, NAA levels in the left and right frontal lobe regions were positively correlated with post-concussive symptoms; and NAA levels within the left frontal region were also positively correlated with neuropathic pain symptom severity, depression, and PTSD symptoms in the TBI with chronic pain group. These results suggest that neuronal integrity or density in the prefrontal cortex, a critical region for nociception and pain modulation, is associated with the severity of neuropathic pain symptoms and psychological comorbidities following TBI. Our data suggest that a combination of neuronal loss or dysfunction and maladaptive neuroplasticity may contribute to the development of persistent pain following TBI, although no causal relationship can be determined based on these data.