As most fibromyalgia patients know, there are no approved tests to diagnose this chronic pain condition. A new study has taken science a step forward in this direction. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have identified a brain signature that is able to predict fibromyalgia with 93% accuracy. Functional MRI scans were used to compare brain activity in 37 fibromyalgia patients and 35 healthy controls as they were exposed to multiple sensory sensations (visual, auditory, and pressure). The study found three ‘neurological patterns’ common to 93% of the participants with fibromyalgia. Specifically, these brain responses “show characteristically enhanced unpleasantness to painful and non-painful sensations accompanied by altered neural responses” (Lopez-Sola, et al., 2016). As this was the first neuro-imaging study of the chronic pain condition, it provided further proof that fibromyalgia is a central nervous system disorder. Additional studies may help to determine if there are sub-types of the condition and individual variations, ultimately leading to more effective treatments.
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