Fibromyalgia Brain Imaging
Important Information about Fibromyalgia Revealed through Brain Imaging Studies
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disease that is still not fully understood. Doctors do know that the disease involves abnormal behaviors in the nervous system and brain. Modern technology and careful testing has resulted in a number of brain imaging studies that are shedding light on the condition. Brain imaging studies have resulted in a few important findings about fibromyalgia.
Abnormal Processing of Pain Signals
The most significant finding from brain imaging studies is that individuals suffering from FM do not process pain in the same way as other people. This has helped doctors to start to isolate some of the biological causes for the condition. The brain appears to amplify pain signals causing small sensations reported through the nerves to become excruciatingly painful. Brain imaging also shows that patients with FM seem to have a lower anticipatory response to pain. This means patients were slower to respond to pain even though the sensation was amplified once it reached the brain.
Regions of the Brain are Connected Differently
Brain imaging has shown that areas such as the anterior cingulated, thalamus and prefrontal cortex are likely connected differently in individuals with FM. Brain activity and blood flow does not move through the brain in the same ways as in patients who do not have FM. The results of this are not fully understood at the moment. The differences in the ways parts of the brain interact could be causing signals from the body to be misinterpreted, altered or somehow amplified. This could be one of the causes for the underlying pain. It might also explain some secondary symptoms such as sleeplessness and depression.
High Concentrations of Neurotransmitters
Spectroscopy through magnetic resonance imaging was able to reveal that patients with FM have very high concentrations of a particular neurotransmitter. High concentrations of glutamate were detected in the areas of the brain responsible for processing pain. Glutamate is responsible for transmitting signals from the nervous system. The exceptionally high levels likely indicate that a larger number of receptor proteins are receiving signals about the pain. This would mean the severity of the pain being felt is not necessarily relational to the number of nerves sending signals. This could help to explain why many of the areas that are experiencing pain on the body show no signs of damage or irritation in FM patients.
Abnormally High Duration of Pain
Imaging studies have looked closely at how the brains of FM patients react before, during and after experiencing pain and relief from pain. One of the findings showed that the pain centers in the brain remained active longer than they would in people without FM. The brain could be seen still processing pain even after the stimuli or anticipatory images were removed. This high duration contributes to the chronic sensations of pain people with FM experience.
Many Treatments Can Effectively Relieve Pain
Brain imaging studies have also shown there are many current and potential treatments for FM that can effectively relieve pain. Locations like the Fibromyalgia Treatments Centers of America often incorporate new and experimental treatments for pain. Doctors now think everything from repairing the dendrites in the brain to cognitive therapies could help to relieve pain in certain patients. The imaging studies are also revealing how non-traditional medications for other diseases could help in the future.
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