Brain Areas Tied to Anxiety Linked to Psychological Blocks in Fibromyalgia Patients, Study Finds

Brain Areas Tied to Anxiety Linked to Psychological Blocks in Fibromyalgia Patients, Study Finds
Areas of the brain tied to stress and anxiety responses are linked to psychological inflexibility — the inability to pursue goals while being in pain and feeling negative — in people with fibromyalgia, a study reports. These findings contribute to the understanding of psychological flexibility in the context of fibromyalgia, and open new avenues of research into the role of these specific brain regions in chronic pain. The study, “The Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis as a Brain Correlate of Psychological Inflexibility in Fibromyalgia,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been the psychological treatment of choice to manage chronic pain for many years. Despite showing some effectiveness compared to standard treatment, its effects are moderate at best.  An alternative, called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), aims to enhance a person's so-called “psychological flexibility.” That is, the ability to stay in contact with the present moment and pursue values and goals despite pain, and negative thoughts and emotions.  Studies have found that people with fibromyalgia who are psychologically flexible experience lesser pain, anxiety, and depression, and have better physical and mental health. However, studies focused on identifying the specific brain regions responsible for psychological flexibility are lacking.  To investigate which specific brain structures could be associated with psychological flexibility, researchers in Spain analyzed a series of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans from 47 women with fibromyalgia. Psychological flexibility was assessed using the Psychological Inflexibility in Pain Scale (PIPS) questionnaire, in which higher scores indicate more psychologi
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