Myofascial pain of the temporomandibular region (M-TMD) is a common, but poorly understood chronic disorder. It is unknown whether the condition is a peripheral problem, or a disorder of the central nervous system (CNS). To investigate possible CNS substrates of M-TMD, we compared the brain morphology of 15 women with M-TMD to that of 15 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. High-resolution structural brain and brainstem scans were carried out using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and data were analyzed using a voxel-based morphometry approach. The M-TMD group evidenced decreased or increased gray matter volume compared to controls in several areas of the trigeminothalamocortical pathway, including brainstem trigeminal sensory nuclei, the thalamus, and the primary somatosensory cortex. In addition, M-TMD individuals showed increased gray matter volume compared to controls in limbic regions such as the posterior putamen, globus pallidus, and anterior insula. Within the M-TMD group, jaw pain, pain tolerance, and pain duration were differentially associated with brain and brainstem gray matter volume. Self-reported pain severity was associated with increased gray matter in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex and posterior cingulate. Sensitivity to pressure algometry was associated with decreased gray matter in the pons, corresponding to the trigeminal sensory nuclei. Longer pain duration was associated with greater gray matter in the posterior cingulate, hippocampus, midbrain, and cerebellum. The pattern of gray matter abnormality found in M-TMD individuals suggests the involvement of trigeminal and limbic system dysregulation, as well as potential somatotopic reorganization in the putamen, thalamus, and somatosensory cortex.
aStanford University School of Medicine, Department of Anesthesia, Division of Pain Management, 780 Welch Rd., Suite 208E, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA
bUniversity of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA
cStanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 650 721 1988; fax: +1 650 725 9642.
Submitted October 7, 2009; revised December 18, 2009; accepted January 11, 2010.