Gray Matter

A troubling development in this possibly ill-conceived search for the origins of fibromyalgia: gray matter.  More specifically, the decrease of gray matter volume in patients who have fibromyalgia.  When I told the doctor I just thought of fibromyalgia as brain damage, I was kidding!  Wasn’t I?  Maybe not…

In an article by Cagnie et al (see library), which I haven’t thoroughly read because the abstract was disturbing enough, researchers look at the literature on fibromyalgia and the brain and sensitization of the central nervous system.  Decrease in gray matter (which, by the way is specific to certain areas of the brain while maintaining overall “global gray matter”), corresponds to increased sensitization.  They also describe an imbalance of the “connectivity within the pain network.”  There’s that nasty “imbalance” word again.

Bottom line – decrease in gray matter in specific areas of the brain corresponds to increase in sensitivity, so our bodies feel more; the functional connectivity of the pain-modulating system is decreased, so our bodies don’t suppress pain; but there is increased activity in the pain “matrix” (central sensitization) – we feel pain that others may not perceive as pain.

Better bottom line – changes in the brain make bad things happen in terms of pain modulation and sensitization.  What causes the change in the brain?

Even better bottom line – brain bad:pain bad.  Bad, bad brain….

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