Study Shows Brain Abnormalities in Fibromyalgia NOT Linked to Depression

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • The fact that fibromyalgia patients have brain abnormalities is not new.  Over the past few years a number of studies have demonstrated that reality.  What makes this study unique and exciting is that for the first time researchers looked at whether the abnormalities had a relationship to any depression or anxiety the patient might have.  They did not. 

    Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, some medical professionals have continued to suggest that the pain and fatigue reported by fibromyalgia patients are the result of depression.  This new study, published in the November issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, shows that this is not the case. 

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    Study Methods

    The study was conducted at Centre Hospitalier-Universitaire de la Timone in France and the lead author was Dr. Eric Guedj. 

    Researchers evaluated 20 women who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia according to the American College of Rheumatology criteria and 10 healthy women who served as controls. 

    Pain intensity was evaluated  by the Visual Analog Scale, the Questionnaire Douleur de Saint-Antoine scale (the French version of the McGill Pain Questionnaire), and the Tubingen Pain Behavior Scale.  Disabiity was evaluated using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ).  Anxiety and depression were evaluated by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale. 

    Next, the researchers performed brain imaging on each of the participants using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). 


    Compared with healthy controls, fibromyalgia patients exhibited significant hyperperfusion (increased blood flow) in the region of the brain that discriminates pain intensity.  The degree of increased blood flow directly correlated to the clinical severity and disability indicated by the FIQ score and supports the central sensitization hypothesis.  There was, however, no correlation between any SPECT results and the depression and anxiety scores. 


    The results of this study show that the brain perfusion abnormalities found in fibromyalgia patients are independent of the patient's depression or anxiety status and correlate with the clinical severity of the disease. 

    Source:  Guedj, E (2008). Clinical Correlate of Brain SPECT Perfusion Abnormalities in Fibromyalgia. The Journal of Nuclear Medicine. Vol. 49 No. 11, 1798-1803.

Published On: December 04, 2008