To investigate the impact of chronic pain on brain dynamics at rest.
Functional connectivity was examined in patients with fibromyalgia (FM) (n = 9) and healthy controls (n = 11) by calculating partial correlations between low-frequency blood oxygen level–dependent fluctuations extracted from 15 brain regions.
Patients with FM had more positive and negative correlations within the pain network than healthy controls. Patients with FM displayed enhanced functional connectivity of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) with the insula (INS) and basal ganglia (p values between .01 and .05), the secondary somatosensory area with the caudate (CAU) (p = .012), the primary motor cortex with the supplementary motor area (p = .007), the globus pallidus with the amygdala and superior temporal sulcus (both p values < .05), and the medial prefrontal cortex with the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and CAU (both p values < .05). Functional connectivity of the ACC with the amygdala and periaqueductal gray (PAG) matter (p values between .001 and .05), the thalamus with the INS and PAG (both p values < .01), the INS with the putamen (p = .038), the PAG with the CAU (p = .038), the secondary somatosensory area with the motor cortex and PCC (both p values < .05), and the PCC with the superior temporal sulcus (p = .002) was also reduced in FM. In addition, significant negative correlations were observed between depression and PAG connectivity strength with the thalamus (r = −0.64, p = .003) and ACC (r = −0.60, p = .004).
These findings demonstrate that patients with FM display a substantial imbalance of the connectivity within the pain network during rest, suggesting that chronic pain may also lead to changes in brain activity during internally generated thought processes such as occur at rest.
BOLD = blood oxygen level–dependent; FM = fibromyalgia; HC = healthy control; WHYMPI = West Haven-Yale Multidimensional Pain Inventory; fMRI = functional magnetic resonance imaging; ACC = anterior cingulate cortex; PCC = posterior cingulate cortex; AMYG = amygdala; CAU = caudate; PUT = putamen; INS = insula; M1 = primary motor area; SMA = supplementary motor area; SI = primary somatosensory area; SII = secondary somatosensory area; mPFC = medial prefrontal cortex; PAG = periaqueductal gray; STS = superior temporal sulcus; THA = thalamus