Brain imaging reveals dynamic changes caused by pain medicines

November 19, 2013, University of Michigan Health System
In a University of Michigan led study, brain imaging allows researchers to "see" how a common pain medicine works to alleviate fibromyalgia pain. Credit: University of Michigan Health System

A study in the December issue of Anesthesiology suggests a role for brain imaging in the assessment and potential treatment of chronic pain.

University of Michigan researchers are the first to use brain imaging procedures to track the clinical action of pregabalin, a drug known by the brand name Lyrica® that is prescribed to patients suffering from fibromyalgia and .

Three different brain imaging procedures were performed – proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, functional magnetic resonance imaging and functional connectivity – in 17 patients with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder thought to result from a disturbance in the way the central nervous system processes pain. It affects an estimated 10 million people in the United States and 3 to 6 percent of the world population.

Patients with fibromyalgia may spontaneously report pain throughout their bodies although there is no inflammatory or anatomical damage. In addition to chronic pain, patients may also suffer from related mood disturbances, such as anxiety and depression.

Previous research has shown that fibromyalgia patients may have heightened neural activity in a region of the brain involved in processing pain and emotion called the insula, and that this excess activity may be related to elevated levels of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.

Brain imaging conducted at the U-M Health System suggests pregabalin works in part by reducing the concentration of glutamate within the insula, which is consistent with animal studies. These reductions in glutamate were also accompanied by decreases in insula connectivity and reductions in clinical pain ratings.

This type of brain activity imaging may help in the development of new pain medicines and personalized .

"The significance of this study is that it demonstrates that pharmacologic therapies for chronic pain can be studied with brain imaging," says lead study author Richard Harris, Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan.

"The results could point to a future in which more targeted brain imaging approaches can be used during pharmacological treatment of , rather than the current trial-and-error approach."

Explore further: Pleasure and pain brain signals disrupted in fibromyalgia patients

More information: "Pregabalin rectifies aberrant brain chemistry, connectivity and functional response in chronic pain patients," Vol. 119, Issue 6, December 2013, Anesthesiology, the Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Related Stories

Pleasure and pain brain signals disrupted in fibromyalgia patients

November 5, 2013
New research indicates that a disruption of brain signals for reward and punishment contributes to increased pain sensitivity, known as hyperalgesia, in fibromyalgia patients. Results published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, ...

Discovery could eventually help diagnose and treat chronic pain

December 20, 2012
More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. But treating and studying chronic pain is complex and presents many challenges. Scientists have long searched for a method to objectively measure pain and a new study ...

It's shocking: Ultra-focused electric current helps brain curb pain

October 29, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Imagine significantly reducing a persistent migraine or fibromyalgia by a visit to a doctor who delivers low doses of electricity to the brain.

Women's chronic pain is more complex, more severe

October 24, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—New research from the University of Adelaide has found that chronic pain in women is more complex and harder to treat than chronic pain in men.

Lyrica may ease pain for depressed fibromyalgia patients

October 28, 2013
(HealthDay)—Fibromyalgia and depression often go hand in hand, and a new study finds that the drug Lyrica helps ease pain in patients being treated for both conditions.

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.