The researchers, led by Jürgen Lutz, M.D., a radiology resident at University Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to track the movement of water molecules in the brain’s gray and white matter.
“A major problem for patients with chronic pain is making their condition believable to doctors, relatives and insurance carriers. DTI could play an important role in this regard,” Dr. Lutz said. “With these objective and reproducible correlates in brain imaging, chronic pain may no longer be a subjective experience. For pain diagnosis and treatment, the consequences could be enormous.”
Individual water molecules are constantly in motion, colliding with each other and other nearby molecules, causing them to spread out, or diffuse. DTI allows scientists to analyze water diffusion in the tissues of the brain that indicate changes in brain cell organization.
“In normal white matter, water diffuses in one main direction,” Dr. Lutz explained. “But when fiber pathways are developing during childhood or are extensively used, their microstructural organization becomes more organized and complex with measurable changes in diffusion.”
Dr. Lutz and colleagues studied 20 patients experiencing chronic back pain with no precisely identifiable cause and 20 age- and gender-matched healthy control patients. DTI was performed to measure the diffusion in several areas of each patient’s brain.
Compared to the healthy volunteers, the patients with chronic low back pain had a significantly more directed diffusion in the three pain-processing regions of the brain, including the cingulate gyrus, postcentral gyrus and superior frontal gyrus.
“Our results reveal that in chronic pain sufferers, the organization of cerebral microstructure is much more complex and active in the areas of the brain involved in pain processing, emotion and the stress response,” said co-author Gustav Schelling, M.D., Ph.D. from the Department of Anaesthesiology at Munich University.
The researchers said the findings may help explain the extreme resistance to treatment for chronic low back pain and provide much-needed evidence for individual sufferers. However, it is unclear which occurs first, the chronic back pain or the microstructural changes in the brain.
“It’s difficult to know whether these are pre-existing changes in the brain that predispose an individual to developing chronic pain, whether ongoing pain creates the hyperactivity that actually changes the brain organization, or if it is some mixture of both,” Dr. Schelling said. “DTI may help explain what’s happening for some of these patients, and direct therapeutic attention from the spine to the brain,” he added.
Maureen Morley | EurekAlert!
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
16.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
22.05.2018 | Life Sciences
22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News