STUDY: Neural Signature for Fibromyalgia May Help Diagnosis and Treatment

STUDY: Neural Signature for Fibromyalgia May Help Diagnosis and Treatment

The clinical diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be a challenge, but researchers have discovered a brain signature that identifies the condition with 93% accuracy, according to a study published in the newest edition of the journal PAIN.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that fibromyalgia affects more than five million adults annually in the U.S., with significantly higher occurrence rates in women than in men.

Historically, fibromyalgia has been difficult to diagnose and treat due to a lack of a well-categorized tissue pathology and symptoms that overlap with other common chronic illnesses.

University of Colorado Boulder researchers used functional MRI scans (fMRI) to study brain activity in a group of 37 fibromyalgia patients and 35 control patients as they were exposed to a variety of non-painful visual, auditory and tactile cues in addition to painful pressure.

The multisensory testing allowed the researchers to identify a series of three sub-markers, or neurological patterns, that correlated with the hypersensitivity to pain that characterizes fibromyalgia.

“The novelty of this study is that it provides potential neuroimaging-based tools that can be used with new patients to inform about the degree of certain neural pathology underlying their pain symptoms,” said Marina López-Solà, a post-doctoral researcher in CU Boulder’s Cognitive and Affective Control Laboratory and lead author of the new study. “The set of tools may be helpful to identify patient subtypes, which may be important for adjusting treatment selection on an individualized basis.”

“Though many pain specialists have established clinical procedures for diagnosing fibromyalgia, the clinical label does not explain what is happening neurologically and it does not reflect the full individuality of patients’ suffering,” said Tor Wager, director of the Cognitive and Affective Control Laboratory. “The potential for brain measures like the ones we developed here is that they can tell us something about the particular brain abnormalities that drive an individual’s suffering. That can help us both recognize fibromyalgia for what it is – a disorder of the central nervous system – and treat it more effectively.”

If replicated and expanded upon in future studies, the results could eventually provide a neurological road map to brain activity that would inform diagnosis and therapeutic interventions for fibromyalgia.

“This is a helpful first step that builds off of other important previous work and is a natural step in the evolution of our understanding of fibromyalgia as a brain disorder” said López-Solà.

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Authored by: Staff

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I wonder if any of these MRI’s has noted characteristic spots on the brain, similar to those of MS, only not taking up dye in these studies? If so, is this considered a mark of the cognitive dysfunction, the pain related stress, or some other marker?

Lynn Mosby

Great information!!

Scott Wilkin

Lyrics does help, but it also has horrible side effects like tremendous weight gain, which then leads to lots of other health issues. RSD/CRPS is a nerve disorder that is worst than fibromyalgia and they are making strides with a treatment called Neridronate. This will help all with fibromyalgia and RSD and we need the FDA to do their job and clear it. It has a 99% success rate. That’s what we need to focus on!

John Quintner Physician in Rheumatology and Pain Medicine (retired)

Unfortunately the control subjects in this study were all “normal”. The authors did not include a third group of people experiencing chronic pain who did not fulfil the criteria for fibromyalgia.

This fatal design flaw has bedevilled much of the published research on fibromyalgia and renders somewhat dubious the conclusions being drawn from this study.

The eminent researcher Professor Fred Wolfe has recently discussed this important issue on his blog Fibromyalgia Perplex.


Bob Schubring

This study benefits from Colorado’s cannabis law in two ways. Firstly, because recreational cannabis is taxed, the state legislature can afford to keep the universities supplied with equipment, such as the fMRI that was essential to this study. Secondly, doctors are under no pressure to report “cannabis use disorder”. Because fibromyalgia is extremely painful, patients desperate for relief, who obtained cannabis and used it, may safely communicate with doctors about their experience. Thus, these researchers were free to get better insight into what their patients’ state of health actually is.

The Truth is an idea whose time has come.