OBJECTIVE: Chronic pain can have detrimental effects on quality of life and a profound impact on one's identity. The Pictorial Representation of Illness- and Self-Measure (PRISM), is a visual tool designed to measure the self-illness separation (SIS) that represents the degree of schema-enmeshment (i.e., the degree to which the self-schema and the illness-schema come to overlap). Our aim was to investigate the relationship between schema-enmeshment and pain-related outcomes in patients with fibromyalgia. METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, 114 patients with fibromyalgia completed self-report assessments of pain catastrophizing, pain severity and interference, impact of symptoms, anxiety, and depression. SIS was assessed using an iPad version of PRISM. Mediation analyses evaluated the mediating role of schema-enmeshment on the association between pain catastrophizing and fibromyalgia impact. RESULTS: A higher degree of schema-enmeshment was associated with greater pain catastrophizing, pain severity and interference, impact of symptoms, and depression. Moreover, a mediation analysis revealed that schema-enmeshment significantly mediated the association between pain catastrophizing and fibromyalgia impact (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that schema-enmeshment is associated with greater intrusiveness of chronic pain on everyday life, thereby posing significant limitations on the emotional and physical well-being of fibromyalgia patients. Schema-enmeshment also appears to partly account for the deleterious effect of pain catastrophizing on disease impact. The PRISM is a simple tool that may uniquely capture the extent to which chronic pain and illness infiltrates and affects one's self-concept.
About a third of all United States veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War (GW) report a range of chronic health symptoms including fatigue, neurocognitive symptoms, and musculoskeletal pain. There is growing evidence supporting the detrimental effects of maladaptive neuroimmune reactions in this multi-symptom illness. Indeed, recent studies using positron emission tomography (PET) using the radioligand [11C]PBR28, which binds the neuroinflammation marker 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO), and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) have independently identified the anterior cingulate (ACC) and midcingulate cortices (MCC) as key regions for differentiating GWI veterans from healthy controls (HC). Here, we used integrated (i.e., simultaneous) PET/MRI imaging techniques, paired with dMRI processing methods (neurite density imaging, NDI, and free-water diffusion tensor model to single-shell high-order dMRI), to directly evaluate the relationship between ACC and MCC microstructural tissue parameters, TSPO signal and clinical parameters in the same cohorts of 10 GWI veterans and 19 HCs. Within the regions evaluated, TSPO signal elevations were associated with restricted diffusivity in the extracellular compartment, while clinical measures were best explained by neurite density and cellular structure complexity measures. Our study is the first to provide evidence of a relationship between PET and dMRI modalities in GWI and suggests that microstructural changes in the ACC and MCC are correlated to mood symptoms and cognitive performances in GWI veterans.
Osteoarthritis (OA) and major depression (MD) are two debilitating disorders that frequently co-occur and affect millions of the elderly each year. Despite the greater symptom severity, poorer clinical outcomes, and increased mortality of the comorbid conditions, we have a limited understanding of their etiologic relationships. In this study, we conducted the first cross-disorder investigations of OA and MD, using genome-wide association data representing over 247K cases and 475K controls. Along with significant positive genome-wide genetic correlations (r g = 0.299 ± 0.026, p = 9.10 × 10-31), Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis identified a bidirectional causal effect between OA and MD (βOA → MD = 0.09, SE = 0.02, z-score p-value < 1.02 × 10-5; βMD → OA = 0.19, SE = 0.026, p < 2.67 × 10-13), indicating genetic variants affecting OA risk are, in part, shared with those influencing MD risk. Cross-disorder meta-analysis of OA and MD identified 56 genomic risk loci (P meta ≤ 5 × 10-8), which show heightened expression of the associated genes in the brain and pituitary. Gene-set enrichment analysis highlighted "mechanosensory behavior" genes (GO:0007638; P gene_set = 2.45 × 10-8) as potential biological mechanisms that simultaneously increase susceptibility to these mental and physical health conditions. Taken together, these findings show that OA and MD share common genetic risk mechanisms, one of which centers on the neural response to the sensation of mechanical stimulus. Further investigation is warranted to elaborate the etiologic mechanisms of the pleiotropic risk genes, as well as to develop early intervention and integrative clinical care of these serious conditions that disproportionally affect the aging population.
OBJECTIVE: Abnormal central pain processing is a leading etiology underlying fibromyalgia (FM) pain and is perceptually characterized with the psychophysical measure of temporal summation of pain (TSP). TSP is the perception of increasingly greater pain to repetitive or tonic noxious stimuli. Previous neuroimaging studies have used static (i.e. summary) measures to examine the fMRI correlates of TSP in FM. However, functional brain activity rapidly and dynamically reorganizes across time, and TSP is similarly a temporally evolving process. A full understanding of the neural circuitry supporting TSP in FM thus requires a dynamic measure that evolves over time.
METHOD: We applied novel dynamic functional connectivity (dFC) methods to examine how TSP-associated fluctuations are linked to dynamic functional reconfigurations of the brain. We acquired high-temporal resolution fMRI data during a resting-state (REST) and during sustained cuff pressure pain applied to the leg (PAIN) in 84 FM patients and matched healthy controls (HCs).
RESULTS: FM patients experienced greater TSP than HCs (FM: 17.93 ± 19.24; HC: 9.47 ± 14.06; p = 0.028), but TSP varied substantially between patients. In the brain, the presence versus absence of TSP in FM was marked by more sustained enmeshment between sensorimotor and salience networks during PAIN. Furthermore, dynamic enmeshment was more isolated in FM patients with high TSP, as interactions with all other brain networks were dampened during PAIN.
CONCLUSION: This study elucidates the dynamic brain processes underlying facilitated central pain processing in FM, and enables future work investigating dynamic symptomatology in FM.
Neuroinflammation occurs in response to acute ischemic stroke, and has been speculated to underlie secondary poststroke pathologies, such as depression, that often develop over time poststroke. However, no study has examined whether neuroinflammation is present in chronic stroke patients (e.g., ≥ 1 year poststroke). This study tested whether neuroinflammation is present in chronic stroke patients, and is associated with neurodegeneration, using [11C]PBR28 PET and diffusion MRI. Eight patients with middle cerebral artery (MCA) ischemic stroke incurred 1-3 years prior and 16 healthy controls underwent [11C]PBR28 PET to measure glial activation and diffusion MRI to measure microstructural integrity by mean diffusivity (MD) and fractional anisotropy (FA) using an integrated PET/MRI scanner. Group differences in [11C]PBR28 binding, MD and FA were analyzed voxelwise across the whole brain excluding the infarct zone defined as voxels containing the infarct in any patient. Compared to controls, patients showed elevations in [11C]PBR28 binding in several brain regions outside the infarct zone, including regions with presumed direct neuroanatomical connections to the infarct (e.g., ipsilesional internal capsule and thalamus) and those without known direct connections (e.g., contralesional thalamus and cingulate gyrus). Patients also showed widespread elevations in MD, with a subset of these regions having reduced FA. In patients, MD was more elevated in regions with co-localized elevations in [11C]PBR28 binding than in contralateral regions without elevations in [11C]PBR28 binding. This pilot study supports the presence of extensive glial activation along with widespread loss in microstructural integrity in non-infarcted tissue in a cohort of patients with chronic MCA stroke. The loss in microstructural integrity was greater in regions with co-localized glial activation. It is possible that stroke risk factors (e.g., hypertension) contributed to these tissue changes in patients.
We recently showed that patients with different chronic pain conditions (such as chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, migraine, and Gulf War Illness) demonstrated elevated brain and/or spinal cord levels of the glial marker 18 kDa translocator protein, which suggests that neuroinflammation might be a pervasive phenomenon observable across multiple etiologically heterogeneous pain disorders. Interestingly, the spatial distribution of this neuroinflammatory signal appears to exhibit a degree of disease specificity (e.g. with respect to the involvement of the primary somatosensory cortex), suggesting that different pain conditions may exhibit distinct "neuroinflammatory signatures". To further explore this hypothesis, we tested whether neuroinflammatory signal can characterize putative etiological subtypes of chronic low back pain patients based on clinical presentation. Specifically, we explored neuroinflammation in patients whose chronic low back pain either did or did not radiate to the leg (i.e. "radicular" vs. "axial" back pain). Fifty-four chronic low back pain patients, twenty-six with axial back pain (43.7 ± 16.6 y.o. [mean±SD]) and twenty-eight with radicular back pain (48.3 ± 13.2 y.o.), underwent PET/MRI with [11C]PBR28, a second-generation radioligand for the 18 kDa translocator protein. [11C]PBR28 signal was quantified using standardized uptake values ratio (validated against volume of distribution ratio; n = 23). Functional MRI data were collected simultaneously to the [11C]PBR28 data 1) to functionally localize the primary somatosensory cortex back and leg subregions and 2) to perform functional connectivity analyses (in order to investigate possible neurophysiological correlations of the neuroinflammatory signal). PET and functional MRI measures were compared across groups, cross-correlated with one another and with the severity of "fibromyalgianess" (i.e. the degree of pain centralization, or "nociplastic pain"). Furthermore, statistical mediation models were employed to explore possible causal relationships between these three variables. For the primary somatosensory cortex representation of back/leg, [11C]PBR28 PET signal and functional connectivity to the thalamus were: 1) higher in radicular compared to axial back pain patients, 2) positively correlated with each other and 3) positively correlated with fibromyalgianess scores, across groups. Finally, 4) fibromyalgianess mediated the association between [11C]PBR28 PET signal and primary somatosensory cortex-thalamus connectivity across groups. Our findings support the existence of "neuroinflammatory signatures" that are accompanied by neurophysiological changes, and correlate with clinical presentation (in particular, with the degree of nociplastic pain) in chronic pain patients. These signatures may contribute to the subtyping of distinct pain syndromes and also provide information about inter-individual variability in neuro-immune brain signals, within diagnostic groups, that could eventually serve as targets for mechanism-based precision medicine approaches.
ABSTRACT: Chronic pain is a highly debilitating and difficult to treat condition, which affects the structure of the brain. Although the development of chronic pain is moderately heritable, how disease-related alterations at the microscopic genetic architecture drive macroscopic brain abnormalities is currently largely unknown. Here, we examined alterations in morphometric similarity (MS) and applied an integrative imaging transcriptomics approach to identify transcriptional and cellular correlates of these MS changes, in 3 independent small cohorts of patients with distinct chronic pain syndromes (knee osteoarthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia) and age-matched and sex-matched pain-free controls. We uncover a novel pattern of cortical MS remodelling involving mostly small-to-medium MS increases in the insula and limbic cortex (none of these changes survived stringent false discovery rate correction for the number of regions tested). This pattern of changes is different from that observed in patients with major depression and cuts across the boundaries of specific pain syndromes. By leveraging transcriptomic data from Allen Human Brain Atlas, we show that cortical MS remodelling in chronic pain spatially correlates with the brain-wide expression of genes related to pain and broadly involved in the glial immune response and neuronal plasticity. Our findings bridge levels to connect genes, cell classes, and biological pathways to in vivo imaging correlates of chronic pain. Although correlational, our data suggest that cortical remodelling in chronic pain might be shaped by multiple elements of the cellular architecture of the brain and identifies several pathways that could be prioritized in future genetic association or drug development studies.
AIMS: Gulf War Illness (GWI), a chronic debilitating disorder characterized by fatigue, joint pain, cognitive, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and skin problems, is currently diagnosed by self-reported symptoms. The Boston Biorepository, Recruitment, and Integrative Network (BBRAIN) is the collaborative effort of expert Gulf War Illness (GWI) researchers who are creating objective diagnostic and pathobiological markers and recommend common data elements for GWI research.
MAIN METHODS: BBRAIN is recruiting 300 GWI cases and 200 GW veteran controls for the prospective study. Key data and biological samples from prior GWI studies are being merged and combined into retrospective datasets. They will be made available for data mining by the BBRAIN network and the GWI research community. Prospective questionnaire data include general health and chronic symptoms, demographics, measures of pain, fatigue, medical conditions, deployment and exposure histories. Available repository biospecimens include blood, plasma, serum, saliva, stool, urine, human induced pluripotent stem cells and cerebrospinal fluid.
KEY FINDINGS: To date, multiple datasets have been merged and combined from 15 participating study sites. These data and samples have been collated and an online request form for repository requests as well as recommended common data elements have been created. Data and biospecimen sample requests are reviewed by the BBRAIN steering committee members for approval as they are received.
SIGNIFICANCE: The BBRAIN repository network serves as a much needed resource for GWI researchers to utilize for identification and validation of objective diagnostic and pathobiological markers of the illness.
The positron emission tomography (PET) radiotracer [11C]PBR28 has been increasingly used to image the translocator protein (TSPO) as a marker of neuroinflammation in a variety of brain disorders. Interrelatedly, similar clinical populations can also exhibit altered brain perfusion, as has been shown using arterial spin labelling in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies. Hence, an unsolved debate has revolved around whether changes in perfusion could alter delivery, uptake, or washout of the radiotracer [11C]PBR28, and thereby influence outcome measures that affect interpretation of TSPO upregulation. In this simultaneous PET/MRI study, we demonstrate that [11C]PBR28 signal elevations in chronic low back pain patients are not accompanied, in the same regions, by increases in cerebral blood flow (CBF) compared to healthy controls, and that areas of marginal hypoperfusion are not accompanied by decreases in [11C]PBR28 signal. In non-human primates, we show that hypercapnia-induced increases in CBF during radiotracer delivery or washout do not alter [11C]PBR28 outcome measures. The combined results from two methodologically distinct experiments provide support from human data and direct experimental evidence from non-human primates that changes in CBF do not influence outcome measures reported by [11C]PBR28 PET imaging studies and corresponding interpretations of the biological meaning of TSPO upregulation.
BACKGROUND: Fibromyalgia is a centralized multidimensional chronic pain syndrome, but its pathophysiology is not fully understood.
METHODS: We applied 3D magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI), covering multiple cortical and subcortical brain regions, to investigate the association between neuro-metabolite (e.g. combined glutamate and glutamine, Glx; myo-inositol, mIno; and combined (total) N-acetylaspartate and N-acetylaspartylglutamate, tNAA) levels and multidimensional clinical/behavioural variables (e.g. pain catastrophizing, clinical pain severity and evoked pain sensitivity) in women with fibromyalgia (N = 87).
RESULTS: Pain catastrophizing scores were positively correlated with Glx and tNAA levels in insular cortex, and negatively correlated with mIno levels in posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Clinical pain severity was positively correlated with Glx levels in insula and PCC, and with tNAA levels in anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC), but negatively correlated with mIno levels in aMCC and thalamus. Evoked pain sensitivity was negatively correlated with levels of tNAA in insular cortex, MCC, PCC and thalamus.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings support single voxel placement targeting nociceptive processing areas in prior 1 H-MRS studies, but also highlight other areas not as commonly targeted, such as PCC, as important for chronic pain pathophysiology. Identifying target brain regions linked to multidimensional symptoms of fibromyalgia (e.g. negative cognitive/affective response to pain, clinical pain, evoked pain sensitivity) may aid the development of neuromodulatory and individualized therapies. Furthermore, efficient multi-region sampling with 3D MRSI could reduce the burden of lengthy scan time for clinical research applications of molecular brain-based mechanisms supporting multidimensional aspects of fibromyalgia.
SIGNIFICANCE: This large N study linked brain metabolites and pain features in fibromyalgia patients, with a better spatial resolution and brain coverage, to understand a molecular mechanism underlying pain catastrophizing and other aspects of pain transmission. Metabolite levels in self-referential cognitive processing area as well as pain-processing regions were associated with pain outcomes. These results could help the understanding of its pathophysiology and treatment strategies for clinicians.
ABSTRACT: The weak association between disability levels and "peripheral" (ie, knee) findings suggests that central nervous system alterations may contribute to the pathophysiology of knee osteoarthritis (KOA). Here, we evaluated brain metabolite alterations in patients with KOA, before and after total knee arthroplasty (TKA), using 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Thirty-four presurgical patients with KOA and 13 healthy controls were scanned using a PRESS sequence (TE = 30 ms, TR = 1.7 seconds, voxel size = 15 × 15 × 15 mm). In addition, 13 patients were rescanned 4.1 ± 1.6 (mean ± SD) weeks post-TKA. When using creatine (Cr)-normalized levels, presurgical KOA patients demonstrated lower N-acetylaspartate (NAA) (P < 0.001), higher myoinositol (mIns) (P < 0.001), and lower Choline (Cho) (P < 0.05) than healthy controls. The mIns levels were positively correlated with pain severity scores (r = 0.37, P < 0.05). These effects reached statistical significance also using water-referenced concentrations, except for the Cho group differences (P ≥ 0.067). Post-TKA patients demonstrated an increase in NAA (P < 0.01), which returned to the levels of healthy controls (P > 0.05), irrespective of metric. In addition, patients demonstrated postsurgical increases in Cr-normalized (P < 0.001), but not water-referenced mIns, which were proportional to the NAA/Cr increases (r = 0.61, P < 0.05). Because mIns is commonly regarded as a glial marker, our results are suggestive of a possible dual role for neuroinflammation in KOA pain and post-TKA recovery. Moreover, the apparent postsurgical normalization of NAA, a putative marker of neuronal integrity, might implicate mitochondrial dysfunction, rather than neurodegenerative processes, as a plausible pathophysiological mechanism in KOA. More broadly, our results add to a growing body of literature suggesting that some pain-related brain alterations can be reversed after peripheral surgical treatment.
Chronic low back pain (cLBP) has been associated with changes in brain plasticity. Nonpharmacological therapies such as Manual Therapy (MT) have shown promise for relieving cLBP. However, translational neuroimaging research is needed to understand potential central mechanisms supporting MT. We investigated the effect of MT on resting-state salience network (SLN) connectivity, and whether this was associated with changes in clinical pain. Fifteen cLBP patients, and 16 matched healthy controls (HC) were scanned with resting functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), before and immediately after a MT intervention (cross-over design with two separate visits, pseudorandomized, grades V 'Manipulation' and III 'Mobilization' of the Maitland Joint Mobilization Grading Scale). Patients rated clinical pain (0-100) pre- and post-therapy. SLN connectivity was assessed using dual regression probabilistic independent component analysis. Both manipulation (Pre: 39.43 ± 16.5, Post: 28.43 ± 16.5) and mobilization (Pre: 38.83 ± 17.7, Post: 31.76 ± 19.4) reduced clinical back pain (P < .05). Manipulation (but not mobilization) significantly increased SLN connectivity to thalamus and primary motor cortex. Additionally, a voxelwise regression indicated that greater MT-induced increase in SLN connectivity to the lateral prefrontal cortex was associated with greater clinical back pain reduction immediately after intervention, for both manipulation (r = -0.8) and mobilization (r = -0.54). Our results suggest that MT is successful in reducing clinical low back pain by both spinal manipulation and spinal mobilization. Furthermore, this reduction post-manipulation occurs via modulation of SLN connectivity to sensorimotor, affective, and cognitive processing regions. PERSPECTIVE: MT both reduces clinical low back pain and modulates brain activity important for the processing of pain. This modulation was shown by increased functional brain connectivity between the salience network and brain regions involved in cognitive, affective, and sensorimotor processing of pain.
Chronic pain, encompassing conditions, such as low back pain, arthritis, persistent post-surgical pain, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain disorders, is highly prevalent but remains poorly treated. The vast majority of therapeutics are directed solely at neurons, despite the fact that signaling between immune cells, glia, and neurons is now recognized as indispensable for the initiation and maintenance of chronic pain. This review highlights recent advances in understanding fundamental neuroimmune signaling mechanisms and novel therapeutic targets in rodent models of chronic pain. We further discuss new technological developments to study, diagnose, and quantify neuroimmune contributions to chronic pain in patient populations.
Brain multivoxel MR spectroscopic imaging was performed in 3 consecutive patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These included 1 patient with COVID-19-associated necrotizing leukoencephalopathy, another patient who had a recent pulseless electrical activity cardiac arrest with subtle white matter changes, and a patient without frank encephalopathy or a recent severe hypoxic episode. The MR spectroscopic imaging findings were compared with those of 2 patients with white matter pathology not related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 infection and a healthy control subject. The NAA reduction, choline elevation, and glutamate/glutamine elevation found in the patient with COVID-19-associated necrotizing leukoencephalopathy and, to a lesser degree, the patient with COVID-19 postcardiac arrest, follow a similar pattern as seen with the patient with delayed posthypoxic leukoencephalopathy. Lactate elevation was most pronounced in the patient with COVID-19 necrotizing leukoencephalopathy.
ABSTRACT: Using positron emission tomography, we recently demonstrated elevated brain levels of the 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO), a glial activation marker, in chronic low back pain (cLBP) patients, compared to healthy controls (HCs). Here, we first sought to replicate the original findings in an independent cohort (15 cLBP, 37.8 ± 12.5 y/o; 18 HC, 48.2 ± 12.8 y/o). We then trained random forest machine learning algorithms based on TSPO imaging features combining discovery and replication cohorts (totaling 25 cLBP, 42.4 ± 13.2 y/o; 27 HC, 48.9 ± 12.6 y/o), to explore whether image features other than the mean contain meaningful information that might contribute to the discrimination of cLBP patients and HC. Feature importance was ranked using SHapley Additive exPlanations values, and the classification performance (in terms of area under the curve values) of classifiers containing only the mean, other features, or all features was compared using the DeLong test. Both region-of-interest and voxelwise analyses replicated the original observation of thalamic TSPO signal elevations in cLBP patients compared to HC (P < 0.05). The random forest-based analyses revealed that although the mean is a discriminating feature, other features demonstrate similar level of importance, including the maximum, kurtosis, and entropy. Our observations suggest that thalamic neuroinflammatory signal is a reproducible and discriminating feature for cLBP, further supporting a role for glial activation in human cLBP, and the exploration of neuroinflammation as a therapeutic target for chronic pain. This work further shows that TSPO signal contains a richness of information that the simple mean might fail to capture completely.
Issues with model fitting (i.e. suboptimal standard deviation, linewidth/full-width-at-half-maximum, and/or signal-to-noise ratio) in multi-voxel MRI spectroscopy, or chemical shift imaging (CSI) can result in the significant loss of usable voxels. A potential solution to minimize this problem is to estimate the value of unusable voxels by utilizing information from reliable voxels in the same image. We assessed an image restoration method called inpainting as a tool to restore unusable voxels, and compared it with traditional interpolation methods (nearest neighbor, trilinear interpolation and tricubic interpolation). In order to evaluate the performance across varying image contrasts and spatial resolutions, we applied the same techniques to a T1-weighted MRI brain dataset, and N-acetylaspartate (NAA) spectroscopy maps from a CSI dataset. For all image types, inpainting exhibited superior performance (lower normalized root-mean-square errors, NRMSE) compared to all other methods considered (p's < 0.001). Inpainting maintained an average NRMSE of less than 5% even with 50% missing voxels, whereas the other techniques demonstrated up to three times that value, depending on the nature of the image. For CSI maps, inpainting maintained its superiority whether the previously unusable voxels were randomly distributed, or located in regions most commonly affected by voxel loss in real-world data. Inpainting is a promising approach for recovering unusable or missing voxels in voxel-wise analyses, particularly in imaging modalities characterized by low SNR such as CSI. We hypothesize that this technique may also be applicable for datasets from other imaging modalities, such as positron emission tomography, or dynamic susceptibility contrast MRI.
Mechanisms of neuroimmune and mitochondrial dysfunction have been repeatedly implicated in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To examine these mechanisms in ASD individuals, we measured the in vivo expression of the 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO), an activated glial marker expressed on mitochondrial membranes. Participants underwent scanning on a simultaneous magnetic resonance-positron emission tomography (MR-PET) scanner with the second-generation TSPO radiotracer [11C]PBR28. By comparing TSPO in 15 young adult males with ASD with 18 age- and sex-matched controls, we showed that individuals with ASD exhibited lower regional TSPO expression in several brain regions, including the bilateral insular cortex, bilateral precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex, and bilateral temporal, angular, and supramarginal gyri, which have previously been implicated in autism in functional MR imaging studies. No brain region exhibited higher regional TSPO expression in the ASD group compared with the control group. A subset of participants underwent a second MR-PET scan after a median interscan interval of 3.6 months, and we determined that TSPO expression over this period of time was stable and replicable. Furthermore, voxelwise analysis confirmed lower regional TSPO expression in ASD at this later time point. Lower TSPO expression in ASD could reflect abnormalities in neuroimmune processes or mitochondrial dysfunction.
Negative affect (NA) is a significant cause of disability for chronic pain patients. While little is known about the mechanism underlying pain-comorbid NA, previous studies have implicated neuroinflammation in the pathophysiology of both depression and chronic pain. Here, we tested the hypothesis that NA in pain patients is linked to elevations in the brain levels of the glial marker 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO), and changes in functional connectivity. 25 cLBP patients (42.4 ± 13 years old; 13F, 12M) with chronic low back pain (cLBP) and 27 healthy control subjects (48.9 ± 13 years old; 14F, 13M) received an integrated (i.e., simultaneous) positron emission tomography (PET)/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan with the second-generation TSPO ligand [11C]PBR28. The relationship between [11C]PBR28 signal and NA was assessed first with regression analyses against Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scores in patients, and then by comparing cLBP patients with little-to-no, or mild-to-moderate depression against healthy controls. Further, the relationship between PET signal, BDI and frontolimbic functional connectivity was evaluated in patients with mediation models. PET signal was positively associated with BDI scores in patients, and significantly elevated in patients with mild-to-moderate (but not low) depression compared with controls, in anterior middle and pregenual anterior cingulate cortices (aMCC, pgACC). In the pgACC, PET signal was also associated with this region's functional connectivity to the dorsolateral PFC (pgACC-dlPFC), and mediated of the association between pgACC-dlPFC connectivity and BDI. These observations support a role for glial activation in pain-comorbid NA, identifying in neuroinflammation a potential therapeutic target for this condition.
Major surgery is associated with a systemic inflammatory cascade that is thought, in some cases, to contribute to transient and/or sustained cognitive decline, possibly through neuroinflammatory mechanisms. However, the relationship between surgery, peripheral and central nervous system inflammation, and post-operative cognitive outcomes remains unclear in humans, primarily owing to limitations of in vivo biomarkers of neuroinflammation which vary in sensitivity, specificity, validity, and reliability. In the present study, [11C]PBR28 positron emission tomography, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and blood plasma biomarkers of inflammation were assessed pre-operatively and 1-month post-operatively in a cohort of patients (N = 36; 30 females; ≥70 years old) undergoing major orthopedic surgery under spinal anesthesia. Delirium incidence and severity were evaluated daily during hospitalization. Whole-brain voxel-wise and regions-of-interest analyses were performed to determine the magnitude and spatial extent of changes in [11C]PBR28 uptake following surgery. Results demonstrated that, compared with pre-operative baseline, [11C]PBR28 binding in the brain was globally downregulated at 1 month following major orthopedic surgery, possibly suggesting downregulation of the immune system of the brain. No significant relationship was identified between post-operative delirium and [11C]PBR28 binding, possibly due to a small number (n = 6) of delirium cases in the sample. Additionally, no significant relationships were identified between [11C]PBR28 binding and CSF/plasma biomarkers of inflammation. Collectively, these results contribute to the literature by demonstrating in a sizeable sample the effect of major surgery on neuroimmune activation and preliminary evidence identifying no apparent associations between [11C]PBR28 binding and fluid inflammatory markers or post-operative delirium.
Prior studies have shown that patients suffering from chronic Low Back Pain (cLBP) have impaired somatosensory processing including reduced tactile acuity, i.e. reduced ability to resolve fine spatial details with the perception of touch. The central mechanism(s) underlying reduced tactile acuity are unknown but may include changes in specific brain circuitries (e.g. neuroplasticity in the primary somatosensory cortex, S1). Furthermore, little is known about the linkage between changes in tactile acuity and the amelioration of cLBP by somatically-directed therapeutic interventions, such as acupuncture. In this longitudinal neuroimaging study, we evaluated healthy control adults (HC, N = 50) and a large sample of cLBP patients (N = 102) with structural brain imaging (T1-weighted MRI for Voxel-Based Morphometry, VBM; Diffusion Tensor Imaging, DTI) and tactile acuity testing using two-point discrimination threshold (2PDT) over the lower back (site of pain) and finger (control) locations. Patients were evaluated at baseline and following a 4-week course of acupuncture, with patients randomized to either verum acupuncture, two different forms of sham acupuncture (designed with or without somatosensory afference), or no-intervention usual care control. At baseline, cLBP patients demonstrated reduced acuity (greater 2PDT, P = 0.01) over the low back, but not finger (P = 0.29) locations compared to HC, suggesting that chronic pain affects tactile acuity specifically at body regions encoding the experience of clinical pain. At baseline, Gray Matter Volume (GMV) was elevated and Fractional Anisotropy (FA) was reduced, respectively, in the S1-back region of cLBP patients compared to controls (P < 0.05). GMV in cLBP correlated with greater 2PDT-back scores (ρ = 0.27, P = 0.02). Following verum acupuncture, tactile acuity over the back was improved (reduced 2PDT) and greater improvements were associated with reduced S1-back GMV (ρ = 0.52, P = 0.03) and increased S1-back adjacent white matter FA (ρ = -0.56, P = 0.01). These associations were not seen for non-verum control interventions. Thus, S1 neuroplasticity in cLBP is linked with deficits in tactile acuity and, following acupuncture therapy, may represent early mechanistic changes in somatosensory processing that track with improved tactile acuity.