CU researchers discover unique brain pattern in fibromyalgia patients

Finding could lead to better treatments
Posted at 8:30 AM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 10:30:34-04

Researchers at the University of Colorado's Institute of Cognitive Science have discovered something unique in the brains of people suffering from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a disease that affects millions of people in the U.S. with symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue, and hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli.

"The main complaint of these patients is widespread pain across the 4 quadrants of the body, and tenderness," says Dr. Marina Lopez-Sola, a research associate at CU.  

But the underlying causes and mechanisms of fibromyalgia are not fully understood.  It can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms may overlap with other illnesses.

Dr. Lopez-Sola and her team put fibromyalgia patients and control patients through functional MRI scans. The subjects were exposed to painful pressure, as well as other visual and auditory stimuli. This allowed the researchers to identify three neurological patterns that correlated with the patients' heightened pain response and hyper-sensitivity.

"These reports of pain were due to the over expression of that marker," Dr. Lopez-Sola told Denver7. 

More studies are needed, but the hope is that the findings could eventually lead to more individualized treatments for those suffering from Fibromyalgia.

The disease affects an estimated 3 to 5 percent of the world's population, according to the National Fibromyalgia association.  Women are affected at greater rates than men.


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