Neural Signature for Fibromyalgia May Aid Diagnosis & Treatment

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have discovered that a specific brain signature is able to help doctors identify fibromyalgia with an astonishing 93% success rate. This discovery has huge potential in terms of helping physicians to diagnose this prevalent condition in a timely manner.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

In short, fibromyalgia is described as being a chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain which is accompanied by various symptoms, including mood disorders, anxiety, and fatigue. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates that about 5 million American adults are affected by the condition each year, with women being far more prone to the disease than men.

Because tissue pathology tests and symptoms overlap with several other conditions, fibromyalgia has always been difficult to diagnose. In their recent studies, CU Boulder researchers used MRI scans to look at brain activity in 37 people who have fibromyalgia. The research also involved 35 control patients that were exposed to a range of non-painful auditory, visual, and tactile cues, as well as painful pressure.

This latest means of testing allows researchers to identify three neurological sub-markers which are associated with pain hypersensitivity encountered by people with fibromyalgia. While this is essentially still a novelty study, it has nonetheless provided new neuroimaging-based tools which could be used with patients to help determine the severity certain underlying neural pain symptoms, said Marina López-Solà, one of the lead researchers, adding that these new tools could most likely help doctors to identify different patient subtypes, and then adjust treatment as necessary.

The findings of this recent study have now been published in the journal PAIN which is published by an international association which specializes in the study of pain. Even though specialists in the field have developed clinical procedures for diagnosing fibromyalgia, The clinical label which has been attached to this condition still doesn’t accurately reflect how a patient is suffering, said the director of the Cognitive and Affective Control Laboratory.

The best thing about these latest developments is that by measuring brain signatures, we are now able to learn something about the different abnormalities that drive the suffering of people who have fibromyalgia. This, in turn, allows us to better understand the disease, and then hopefully provide more targeted treatment.

If other researchers build on these latest studies, it could very well give doctors a road map that allows doctors to more accurately diagnose fibromyalgia, and therefore provide more effective intervention. “This is a major step in our quest to understand fibromyalgia”, said López-Solà.

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