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.
OBJECTIVE: Cortical spreading depression (CSD) underlies the neurobiology of migraine with aura (MWA). Animal studies reveal networks of microvessels linking brain-meninges-bone marrow. CSD activates the trigeminovascular system, evoking a meningeal inflammatory response. Accordingly, this study examines the upregulation of an inflammatory marker in extra-axial tissues in migraine with visual aura.
METHODS: We used simultaneously acquired 11 C-PBR28 positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging data of 18kDa translocator protein (an inflammatory marker) in MWA patients (n = 11) who experienced headaches and visual aura in the preceding month. We measured mean tracer uptake (standardized uptake value ratio [SUVR]) in 4 regions of interest comprising the meninges plus the adjacent overlying skull bone (parameningeal tissues [PMT]). These data were compared to healthy controls and patients with pain (chronic low back pain).
RESULTS: MWA had significantly higher mean SUVR in PMT overlying occipital cortex than both other groups, although not in the PMT overlying 3 other cortical areas. A positive correlation was also found between the number of visual auras and tracer uptake in occipital PMT.
INTERPRETATION: A strong persistent extra-axial inflammatory signal was found in meninges and calvarial bone overlying the occipital lobe in migraine with visual auras. Our findings are reminiscent of CSD-induced meningeal inflammation and provide the first imaging evidence implicating inflammation in the pathophysiology of migraine meningeal symptoms. We suspect that this inflammatory focus results from a signal that migrates from underlying brain and if so, may implicate newly discovered bridging vessels that crosstalk between brain and skull marrow, a finding of potential relevance to migraine and other neuroinflammatory brain disorders. ANN NEUROL 2020;87:939-949.
Neuroinflammation has been implicated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and can be visualized using translocator protein (TSPO) radioligands. To become a reliable pharmacodynamic biomarker for ALS multicenter trials, TSPO radioligands have some challenges to overcome. We aimed to investigate whether multicenter data pooling of different TSPO tracers (11C-PBR28 and 18F-DPA714) is feasible, after validation of an established 11C-PBR28 PET pseudo reference analysis technique for 18F-DPA714. Methods: Seven ALS patients from Belgium (58.9 ± 6.7 y old, 5 men and 2 women), 8 healthy volunteers from Belgium (52.1 ± 15.2 y old, 3 men and 5 women), 7 ALS patients from the United States (53.4 ± 9.8 y old, 5 men and 2 women), and 7 healthy volunteers from the United States (54.6 ± 9.6 y old, 4 men and 3 women) from a previously published study underwent dynamic 18F-DPA714 (Leuven, Belgium) or 11C-PBR28 (Boston, Massachusetts) PET/MRI. For 18F-DPA714, maps of total volume of distribution (VT) were compared with SUV ratio (SUVR) images from 40 to 60 min after injection (SUVR40-60) calculated using the pseudo reference regions cerebellum, occipital cortex, and whole brain (WB) without ventricles. For 11C-PBR28, SUVR images from 60 to 90 min after injection using the WB without ventricles were calculated. Results: In line with previous studies, increased 18F-DPA714 uptake (17.0% ± 5.6%) in primary motor cortices was observed in ALS subjects, as measured by both VT and SUVR40-60 approaches. The highest sensitivity was found for SUVR calculated using the WB without ventricles (average cluster, 21.6% ± 0.1%). 18F-DPA714 VT ratio was highly correlated with the SUVR40-60 (r > 0.8, P < 0.001). A similar pattern of increased uptake (average cluster, 20.5% ± 0.5%) in the primary motor cortices was observed in ALS subjects for 11C-PBR28 SUVR calculated using the WB without ventricles. Analysis of the 18F-DPA714 and 11C-PBR28 data together resulted in a more extensive pattern of significantly increased glial activation bilaterally in the primary motor cortices. Conclusion: The same pseudo reference region analysis technique for 11C-PBR28 PET can be extended toward 18F-DPA714 PET. Therefore, in ALS, standardized analysis across these 2 tracers enables pooling of TSPO PET data across multiple centers and increases the power of TSPO as a biomarker for future therapeutic trials.
BACKGROUND: Chronic pain and mood disorders share common neuroanatomical substrates involving disruption of the reward system. Although increase in negative affect (NA) and decrease in positive affect (PA) are well-known factors complicating the clinical presentation of chronic pain patients, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the interaction between pain and PA/NA remains limited. Here, we used a validated task probing behavioral and neural responses to monetary rewards and losses in conjunction with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test the hypothesis that dysfunction of the striatum, a key mesolimbic structure involved in the encoding of motivational salience, relates to mood alterations comorbid with chronic pain.
METHODS: Twenty-eight chronic musculoskeletal pain patients (chronic low back pain, n=15; fibromyalgia, n=13) and 18 healthy controls underwent fMRI while performing the Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) task. Behavioral and neural responses were compared across groups and correlated against measures of depression (Beck Depression Inventory) and hedonic capacity (Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale).
RESULTS: Compared to controls, patients demonstrated higher anhedonia and depression scores, and a dampening of striatal activation and incentive-related behavioral facilitation (reduction in reaction times) during reward and loss trials of the MID task (ps < 0.05). In all participants, lower activation of the right striatum during reward trials was correlated with lower incentive-related behavioral facilitation and higher anhedonia scores (ps < 0.05). Finally, among patients, lower bilateral striatal activation during loss trials was correlated with higher depression scores (ps < 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: In chronic pain, PA reduction and NA increase are accompanied by striatal hypofunction as measured by the MID task.
OBJECTIVE: While much brain research on fibromyalgia (FM) focuses on the study of hyperresponsiveness to painful stimuli, some studies suggest that the increased pain-related brain activity often reported in FM studies may be partially explained by stronger responses to salient aspects of the stimulation rather than, or in addition to, the stimulation's painfulness. Therefore, this study was undertaken to test our hypothesis that FM patients would demonstrate elevated brain responses to both pain onset and offset-2 salient sensory events of opposing valences.
METHODS: Thirty-eight FM patients (mean ± SD age 46.1 ± 13.4 years; 33 women) and 15 healthy controls (mean ± SD age 45.5 ± 12.4; 10 women) received a moderately painful pressure stimulus to the leg during blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging. Stimulus onset and offset transients were analyzed using a general linear model as stick functions.
RESULTS: During pain onset, higher BOLD signal response was observed in FM patients compared to healthy controls in dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortices (DLPFC and VLPFC, respectively), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), frontal pole, and precentral gyrus (PrCG). During pain offset, higher and more widespread BOLD signal response was demonstrated in FM patients compared to controls in frontal regions significantly hyperactivated in response to onset. In FM patients, some of these responses were positively correlated with pain unpleasantness ratings (VLPFC, onset; r = 0.35, P = 0.03), pain catastrophizing scores (DLPFC, offset; r = 0.33, P = 0.04), or negatively correlated with stimulus intensity (OFC, offset; r = -0.35, P = 0.03) (PrCG, offset; r = -0.39, P = 0.02).
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the increased sensitivity exhibited by FM patients in response to the onset and offset of painful stimuli may reflect a more generalized hypersensitivity to salient sensory events, and that brain hyperactivation may be a mechanism potentially involved in the generalized hypervigilance to salient stimuli in FM.
Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a chronic disorder affecting approximately 30% of the veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War. It is characterised by a constellation of symptoms including musculoskeletal pain, cognitive problems and fatigue. The cause of GWI is not definitively known but exposure to neurotoxicants, the prophylactic use of pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills, and/or stressors during deployment have all been suspected to play some pathogenic role. Recent animal models of GWI have suggested that neuroinflammatory mechanisms may be implicated, including a dysregulated activation of microglia and astrocytes. However, neuroinflammation has not previously been directly observed in veterans with GWI. To measure GWI-related neuroinflammation in GW veterans, we conducted a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) study using [11C]PBR28, which binds to the 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO), a protein upregulated in activated microglia/macrophages and astrocytes. Veterans with GWI (n = 15) and healthy controls (HC, n = 33, including a subgroup of healthy GW veterans, HCVET, n = 8), were examined using integrated [11C]PBR28 PET/MRI. Standardized uptake values normalized by occipital cortex signal (SUVR) were compared across groups and against clinical variables and circulating inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1β). SUVR were validated against volume of distribution ratio (n = 13). Whether compared to the whole HC group, or only the HCVET subgroup, veterans with GWI demonstrated widespread cortical elevations in [11C]PBR28 PET signal, in areas including precuneus, prefrontal, primary motor and somatosensory cortices. There were no significant group differences in the plasma levels of the inflammatory cytokines evaluated. There were also no significant correlations between [11C]PBR28 PET signal and clinical variables or circulating inflammatory cytokines. Our study provides the first direct evidence of brain upregulation of the neuroinflammatory marker TSPO in veterans with GWI and supports the exploration of neuroinflammation as a therapeutic target for this disorder.
Noninvasive measures of neuroinflammatory processes in humans could substantially aid diagnosis and therapeutic development for many disorders, including chronic pain. Several proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-MRS) metabolites have been linked with glial activity (ie, choline and myo-inositol) and found to be altered in chronic pain patients, but their role in the neuroinflammatory cascade is not well known. Our multimodal study evaluated resting functional magnetic resonance imaging connectivity and H-MRS metabolite concentration in insula cortex in 43 patients suffering from fibromyalgia, a chronic centralized pain disorder previously demonstrated to include a neuroinflammatory component, and 16 healthy controls. Patients demonstrated elevated choline (but not myo-inositol) in anterior insula (aIns) (P = 0.03), with greater choline levels linked with worse pain interference (r = 0.41, P = 0.01). In addition, reduced resting functional connectivity between aIns and putamen was associated with both pain interference (whole brain analysis, pcorrected < 0.01) and elevated aIns choline (r = -0.37, P = 0.03). In fact, aIns/putamen connectivity statistically mediated the link between aIns choline and pain interference (P < 0.01), highlighting the pathway by which neuroinflammation can impact clinical pain dysfunction. To further elucidate the molecular substrates of the effects observed, we investigated how putative neuroinflammatory H-MRS metabolites are linked with ex vivo tissue inflammatory markers in a nonhuman primate model of neuroinflammation. Results demonstrated that cortical choline levels were correlated with glial fibrillary acidic protein, a known marker for astrogliosis (Spearman r = 0.49, P = 0.03). Choline, a putative neuroinflammatory H-MRS-assessed metabolite elevated in fibromyalgia and associated with pain interference, may be linked with astrogliosis in these patients.
BACKGROUND: Neuroinflammation with microglia activation is thought to be closely related to cortical multiple sclerosis (MS) lesion pathogenesis.
OBJECTIVE: Using 11C-PBR28 and 7 Tesla (7T) imaging, we assessed in 9 relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and 10 secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) patients the following: (1) microglia activation in lesioned and normal-appearing cortex, (2) cortical lesion inflammatory profiles, and (3) the relationship between neuroinflammation and cortical integrity.
METHODS: Mean 11C-PBR28 uptake was measured in focal cortical lesions, cortical areas with 7T quantitative T2* (q-T2*) abnormalities, and normal-appearing cortex. The relative difference in cortical 11C-PBR28 uptake between patients and 14 controls was used to classify cortical lesions as either active or inactive. Disease burden was investigated according to cortical lesion inflammatory profiles. The relation between q-T2* and 11C-PBR28 uptake along the cortex was assessed.
RESULTS: 11C-PBR28 uptake was abnormally high in cortical lesions in RRMS and SPMS; in SPMS, tracer uptake was significantly increased also in normal-appearing cortex. 11C-PBR28 uptake and q-T2* correlated positively in many cortical areas, negatively in some regions. Patients with high cortical lesion inflammation had worse clinical outcome and higher intracortical lesion burden than patients with low inflammation.
CONCLUSION: 11C-PBR28 and 7T imaging reveal distinct profiles of cortical inflammation in MS, which are related to disease burden.