Researchers Identify Fibromyalgia Brain Signature that Might Improve Diagnosis, Treatment

Researchers Identify Fibromyalgia Brain Signature that Might Improve Diagnosis, Treatment

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have discovered a brain signature that identifies fibromyalgia (FM) patients with 93 percent accuracy. The discovery opens possibilities for improved fibromyalgia diagnosis and treatments in the future.

The report, Towards a neurophysiological signature for fibromyalgia,” was published in the journal Pain

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Patients with FM show enhanced reaction to painful and non-painful sensations that are accompanied by altered neural responses.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers performed brain scans on 37 FM patients and 35 healthy controls. All subjects were exposed to painful pressure and non-painful visual, auditory, and tactile cues during the scans.

Computerized machine-learning techniques allowed the researchers to identify a brain-based FM signature. Specifically, when exposed to the same painful stimuli as people in the healthy control group, FM patients showed greater neurologic pain signature responses. The method relies on a computer algorithm developed by CU Bolder researchers to recognize a complex pattern of neuronal activation in the brains of subjects exposed to pain.

Researchers found that FM patients had increased responses in three sub-markers, which correlated with hypersensitivity to pain characterized by the condition. When researchers combined the neural signature methods, they were able to classify FM patients from controls with 92 percent sensitivity and 94 percent specificity.

“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,” Marina López-Solà, a post-doctoral researcher in the university’s Cognitive and Affective Control Laboratory and the lead author of the study, said in a news release.

The tools also provided an initial characterization of individual FM patients based on pathophysiological, symptom-related brain features. Results can help physicians place patients more accurately into subtypes and provide individualized treatments.

“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,” Tor Wager, director of the laboratory said. “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.”

 

31 comments

  1. ? Cousens says:

    This is some of the best news I’ve read out of American research. This, coupled with the research on hyperbaric treatment for Fibro patients is VERY exciting. I doubt it will be of benefit to me in my lifetime, but for those with symptoms who are yet to be diagnosed, it should pave the way for improved treatment. Treatments today are hit or miss for the most part. Thank you.

  2. PAMELA BERGMANN-KNEBEL says:

    Lets hope this reaches the Pain Doc commmunity. My would not give me pain meds. My family doc finally did after 3 years of suffering and I now take them only on PRN basis. It has saved me a great deal of suffering on the worse flare days.

    • Maria Melillo Jones says:

      Hello I live in Canada, London Ontario. I have severe Fibromaygia and chronic fatique.
      To top it off i have developed a list of food sensativities. I have I.B.S
      and Deverticulaties, and suffer of chronic migranes.
      I would love if someone can really help me. I am so tires of pain.

      • Suzanne says:

        I work at a medical marijuana dispensary after being a patient for 2 years – it has helped me get off the big Pharma hamster wheel, get my life back and manage my pain in a healthier way. May be worth considering. When you get past the stigma – it is a magical plant. And no side effects like typical meds. I still have to manage and listen to my body but I’m able to cope. I mostly use CBD products but THC has many known helpful medicinal properties to it too.

      • vicki says:

        I was diagnosed in 98 with FMS. After suffering with migraines, among all the other “joys” that come with the FMS territory, I decided to try a new (to me)”painless but effective” approach to control my unrelenting and persistent migraines. Half my life was spent in bed in a pitch black room. My poor husband’s vacation time was spent taking me to the doctor. NOT fun for a newly wed (married less than 1 year)…but the LIGHT AT END OF THE TUNNEL came from a man I had never met AND did NOT have a medical license. June 4, 2016, 2nd day of a Migraine, I decided to TRY a technique my niece told me about. Daith Piercing. I sat in his chair, he asked me which side was giving me a problem and what “design” i wanted. He pulled out a sterilized case, sterilized his hand, my ear and he applied a little pressure and BAM!!!!! NO MORE MIGRAINE. I had both sides done and I have not had a migraine since that day. I have had a couple of slight headaches which I applied a little pressure to my daiths and they were gone in less than 5 minutes.

        I am 62 & wish I had learned this 50 (FIFTY) years ago. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain. My ears healed in a week. The BEST thing I have done for me. The gentleman I went to has done 100+ and only 4 people did it not work for them. I am not into putting holes in my body. I do not like pain. Only out of necessity do I want to be pricked, poked and prodded.

        I would try it…Good Luck
        OR
        DO NOT take a “PASS” on CBD sublingual, NO side effects(NO HIGH) You can get it ONLINE. I buy from CBD
        UNLIMITED out of Arizona. Really knowledgable and extremely helpful.
        OR
        I was a “Test” person for Lyrica. HORRIBLE Drug. Besides gaining 30 lbs(side effect), I think Tylenol is better & safer.
        Another HORRIBLE drug is Cymbalta Besides having the inside of your mouth feel like it is as dry as a desert, AND you might need stool softeners…

        I like Amitriptyline for neuropathy, which I take at 6pm every night
        #1-It helps with migraines,
        #2-It makes me DROWSY so I take in the evening I am ready for bed at 10pm and,
        #3-It takes the pain in my hips away.

        I hope this helps…

        • Cheryl Kirsten says:

          Thank you for all this valuable information on your experience. I’m definitely going to look into it. I was diagnosed with severe Fibromyalgia by Prof Meyer of the Medical Research University here in South Africa in 1996 after suffering unexplained excrutiating pain and loss of the use of my legs due to pain. It has been a draining, pain filled and debilitating 21 years for me. I’ve been seen by specialists country wide from nuclear testing, blood pooling, neurological interventions, every traditional drug from anti depressants to pain killers with no relief. This condition has taken my quality of life completely away. From severe migraines where I thrown up for 5 days and am totally debilitated, to IBS, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, brain fog, excrutiating pain in my feet, hands, shoulders so much that I can’t use them. I’d give anything for my life back. I have heard feedback on the use of cannabis oil. Did it help you?

        • Cheryl Kirsten says:

          Cymbalta & Lyrica both caused me massive weight gain while taking them.
          Now on Venlor (for PTSD) which is supposed to help with FM but had also led to unexplained weight gain when there has been no change in eating habits. But this tab is my link to sanity. I would simply dissolve without it.

      • lalilolly says:

        I use Cymbalta. It works great for the FM and helps some with some migraine symptoms. It took a few months for the side effects to subside, but now, I have all the benefits and no noticeable side effects. Good luck!

    • Jen Lowe says:

      This is great news! Thank you for focusing on the FM community. My questions are: why is this only looking at New Patients? How & could an fMRI be beneficial to current FM patients? For the millions of us living with this Dx, we need help too, as do our docs.
      As for myself, I was Dx’d 7 years ago and struggle significantly to find adequate relief from the pain & fatigue.
      I also suffer from clinical OCD, depression & anxiety with panic attacks. Everything is tied together which makes it so much more difficult to treat as multiple departments are attempting & struggling to do so.
      It would be incredibly beneficial to have Tx that is specifically targeted for me & likewise for the millions more suffering from FM.

      • Laura says:

        You sound like me Jen. What does your dr. Have you taking? I also have brain fog which sucks because i can’t remember anything.

  3. Kristen says:

    Yes how does one become a test dummie? My hand is raised.im atetired nurse a d have myown views as to cause.I think a person who has suffered a neuro imbalance or injury is more prone to fibro.I suffered a brojen back years ago and it seems that wasthe beginning of all the relentless symptoms that accompany this illness!!

    • Jennifer Campbell says:

      For Bessie Mae.look out for Low Dose Nexatrexone join the trust group find a Dr that will prescribe this plus a pharmacy. I only read about this yesterday! Goodluck

  4. Michele Watson says:

    I have had fibro for 30 years. This is very encouraging. Would love to participate in the study. I live in Tucson, Arizona. In the process of applying for disability.

    I have really had a hard time finding doctors that understand this. Not to mention how hurtful it is to not have support from family and co-workers who just say “you don’t look sick”.

  5. Judy says:

    I’m also interested in being a subject in this study. Diagnosed in 92 with many trial and error methods. Lyrica has helped the most so far.

  6. Lorna says:

    I hope this can help in my life time I’m 33 I have several disorders Fibro, ADHD,OCD,EDS,Anxiety,depression, Tourette’s, sleep disorders eating disorders I also have chromosome abnormalities. Suffered injury to my neck in 2009.
    I have 7 children 6 are girls ages 16,14,10,8,5,3,they all complain of fibro symptoms and are hypermobile like me. I don’t want them to suffer like I have, none of us should be suffering in this way I really hope your research can help us all.
    X from Scotland

  7. Lori Croy says:

    I think the best part of this study is that FINALLY doctors have visual proof that something is happening within the brain. There are still a lot of docs out there that think fibro sufferers are histrionic and it’s all in our heads. Well now we have proof it IS all in our heads- but as a neurological disorder NOT a psychiatric one. Thank goodness, maybe now more doctors will take us seriously!

  8. Tina says:

    Wow! Reading these comments made me feel better. For years I’ve suffered, going to doctors on both the American & Canadian side. No-one had answers & put me on meds that didn’t even help. I’m pretty sure giving birth triggered mine. I was healthy & excersized on a regular basis. It was the happiest time in my life but quickly changed. I could no longer walk down steps or do basic household chores which started freaking me out. It was more frustrating feeling the pain move everywhere in my body and the doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong with me. It got so scary I thought I was gonna drop dead and started getting depressed and having enxiety. I was suppose to be in my prime not living in pain! I literally fantasized about holding my doctor hostage till he gave me something! I’m crying just writing this cause it still hurts…..someone felt so bad for me and gave me a half of a pain killer and in about 20 minutes I felt like a miracle happened! I conquered my chores in a morning that would usually take a week! It was def a miracle to me then but I soon became a bother to this person(who had the meds for his back)cause I kep asking and then ended up helping myself when he went to work. He didn’t notice half the time because he had a 120 Oxycontin pills & only took about 80. After many months his doctor passed away at a young age and the new doctor cut everyone down or off which freaked me out knowing my time was up again. I ended up quitting my great awesome job I was so proud of and moving back home near family. Things got worse tho cause I ended up becoming a thug and buying these pills on the street & activated my addiction by becoming dependent on them. It was no longer a miracle it was twice as bad feeling your muscle pain slowly creep back in, along with cold sweats, anxiety and flu-like symptoms. Plus where I lived the price per pill became outrageous I started selling/trading things like extra TV and cars, anything I could spare. My kids still had everything they needed. I ended up travelling far everyday just to buy someone prescription and got caught coming through the border but the judge had a crush on me & dropped it. Soon my luck ran out as news spread of this pill becoming NY an epidemic and ppl od’ing & it was practically cut off. I tried to wean off but ended up an alcoholic. I desperately hated this pain. It seemed to be getting worse and doctors and specialists wouldn’t believe me probably cause I was so young. I heard the nickname that thus was called the “mother/daughter” disease but my mom only had very bad arthritis. I’m so proud of her she wouldn’t even take an aspirin but smoked marijuana. I tried it but it seemed to make me focus more on the pain areas. Peoples bodies are always different. Things really took a turn for the worse when I wrecked a ate in my own yard. I was charged with a DWI because it was so many feet from a major state route. I knew I was getting out of control so I took my punishment and avoided jail time agreeing to drug court and they made me go to Monday night parenting, ma, one on ones with drug & alcohol, had to agree to go to mental health-a group of women one day and a one on one the next, plus A/A. This was absolutely soo hard when you constantly feel like dying plus your families constantly counting on you for everything, and the meeting were all too much when your fatigued and don’t sleep well. My life spiraled out of hand so fast I was thinking if suicide by cop, holding my doctor hostage, robbing pharmacies to relieve this pain!I really didn’t want to be like this forever. Finally I got on Suboxone with a doctor and had a couple years under my belt of drug court but made a bad decision to quit on my own. I stayed strong for 16 days but ended up getting the worse flu of my life. It like labor pains every two minutes with throwing up nothing so bad that it felt like my eyes were popping out of their sockets. I ended up finding a piece of left over Suboxone and desperately took it. It helped amazingly and I had the strength to get up and wash Owens between wiping up my children’s throw up & diarrhea. But court tested me and it came up I failed, it became an uncontrolled substance since I quit & they said I should’ve handed any leftovers in on drop leftover medicine day in a drop box at the police station. I was then charged with violating and sent to jail. At my next one on one with my counselor she said I had to go to rehab, the paperwork was done & they would be waiting for me on Christmas Eve. I ran & then turned myself in on Jan 3. I did learn alot and finally got on Lyrica & Delicateness….it made me feel better but I’m still not a 100% like I wanna be. I can’t even get a job…I can’t give a 100% to someone if IM not a 100% so I tried disability…pretty sure I’ve been denied 4/5 times. I feel like such a disappointment and just found out I’m pregnant again. I’m scared as hell and in triple more pain, Aaarg. I can’t cough, sneeze or even move fast or I get a sharp stabbing pain that literally makes me bend over holding my stomach. I’ve had such a bad pulled neck muscle and couldn’t even move an inch…now it’s back pain too and my varicose veins looks like a 90 year old legs…forgot to mention I got cut off all my meds being pregnant…I’m going back to my old state of mind on not wanting to live like this, feeling list and helpless and so much pain that minutes in a day drag on more than hours. The only time I feel no pain is sleeping and that’s all I do…I’m a useless waste of space. I hope something comes along for someone else at least!!I wouldn’t wish this pain & life on my worst enemy.

  9. jennifer says:

    This is great news! I have been told by four doctors that I have this. But because there was no testing that could be preformed, it always made me think “what if it is something else and you guys just aren’t catching it?” There is also a stigma that comes with having a chronic pain disease that can not be seen in blood or on a test like this by much of the medical field. With all of the up-roar about people tking pain medication, many times a person with fb can appear drug seeking when there really is a legitimate problem. Maybe soon they can figure out how to better fine tune some of the drugs that are on the market to better treat people with this disorder and be able to also tell people if there is something also that is wrong with them.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      The stigma is very real and it is always hard to not only hear the diagnosis, but also believe it. We at Fibro News Today also hope that researchers can continue to fine tune things in order to get a better, more concrete (and quicker) diagnosis for many.

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