Results from a new study conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) may hold promise in diagnosing and treating chronic pain, according to a recent news release. The study, which appears in the journal Pain, researchers studied 16 adults with chronic back pain and 16 adults without pain.
Researchers report that during the study they used a brain imaging technique called arterial spin labeling in order to examine patterns of brain connectivity. The results indicate that when a patient moved in a way that increased back pain, a network of brain regions known as the Default Mode Network exhibited changes in its connections. Regions within the network, such as the medial prefrontal cortex, researchers say, became less connected with the rest of the network when compared to regions outside the network, such as the insula, which became connected with this network.
Ajay Wasan, MD, MSc, director of the section of clinical pain research at BWH notes that, “This novel research supports the use of arterial spin labeling as a tool to evaluate how the brain encodes and is affected by clinical pain, and the use of resting default mode network connectivity as a potential neuroimaging biomarker for chronic pain perception,” Wasan says.
Marco Loggia, PhD, lead author, echoes Wasan and adds that the study has shown, “that specific brain patterns appear to track the severity of pain reported by patients, and can predict who is more likely to experience a worsening of chronic back pain while performing maneuvers designed to induce pain. If further research shows this metric is reliable, this is a step toward developing an objective scale for measuring pain in humans,” Loggia concludes.