A new study has found patients with fibromyalgia have hypersensitivity to nonpainful events based on images of the patients brains, which show reduced activation in primary sensory regions and increased activation in sensory integration areas.
Findings, which were published Sept. 15 in Arthritis & Rheumatology, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology, suggest brain abnormalities in response to nonpainful sensory stimulation might cause the increased unpleasantness patients experience in response to daily visual, auditory and tactile stimulation.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic, musculoskeletal syndrome characterized by widespread pain. According to the ACR, five million people in the U.S. have the condition, which is more prevalent among women. In past studies, fibromyalgia patients have reported reduced tolerance to normal auditory, visual, olfactory and tactile stimulation and greater sensitivity to pain.
For the study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain response to sensory stimulation in 35 women with fibromyalgia and 25 healthy, age-matched controls. Patients had an average disease duration of seven years and an average age of 47.
According to the study, patients reported increased unpleasantness in response to multisensory stimulation in daily life activities. Also, fMRI displayed reduced activation of both the primary and secondary visual and auditory areas of the brain, and increased activation in sensory integration regions. These brain abnormalities mediated the increased unpleasantness to visual, auditory and tactile stimulation that patients reported to experience in daily life.
Our study provides new evidence that fibromyalgia patients display altered central processing in response to multisensory stimulation, which are linked to core fibromyalgia symptoms and may be part of the disease pathology, lead author, Marina López-Solà, PhD, research associate, Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado Boulder, said in a news release. The finding of reduced cortical activation in the visual and auditory brain areas that were associated with patient pain complaints may offer novel targets for neurostimulation treatments in fibromyalgia patients.
Study abstract: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/art.38781