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Author Topic: CFS and the brain  (Read 2248 times)
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roger
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« on: February 04, 2015, 12:35:28 PM »

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found specific changes in the brains, particularly the white matter, of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS.

Patients with CFS have dealt with a number of misunderstandings due to their condition, from people who think the affected person is a hypochondriac, to thinking they are just lazy. These findings are a first step to validating the experience of chronic fatigue.

CFS is difficult to diagnose definitively, making it difficult to determine just how widespread the condition is. It is defined as constant fatigue lasting six months or longer, and may be accompanied by pain in the joints and muscles, debilitating headaches, food intolerances and allergies, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, gastrointestinal distress, blood pressure abnormalities, irregular heart rhythms, and sensitivity to light, sound, and other stimuli. Many of these symptoms are also common with other conditions, but chronic fatigue can plague some sufferers for decades.

Not only could the results of this research make CFS easier to diagnose by providing a much needed diagnostic biomarker, researchers hope that it could shed some light on the underlying mechanisms of the condition.

Lead author and assistant professor of radiology Dr. Michael Zeineh explains that the researchers used three separate advanced imaging systems. Through images obtained from each participants with these systems, they discovered at least three distinct differences between the CFS patients and healthy volunteers.

The researchers compared brain images from 15 chronic fatigue patients with 14 demographically similar healthy individuals who did not have a history of either fatigue or other symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers identify three key differences between the brains of chronic fatigue patients and those of the healthy individuals.

MRI images revealed that patients with CFS had less white matter in the brain overall than healthy patients. White matter consists myelinated axons, the cells responsible for carrying messages throughout the nervous system. Researchers werenít entirely surprised by this finding, as CFS has long been thought to be caused by chronic inflammation, and inflammation is known to be harmful to white matter.

Where the first finding was all but expected, the second was completely unexpected. The researchers used diffusion-tensor imaging, an imaging technique used to evaluate the quality of white matter. The researchers found a consistent abnormality in the portion of the right hemisphere that connects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This area is known as the right arcuate fasciculus and looked abnormal when compared to healthy individuals. To underscore the significance of this finding, the degree of abnormality was directly correlated to the severity of chronic fatigue symptoms.

Finally, the researchers noticed the gray matter in those areas of the brain connected by the right arcuate fasciculus were thicker in CFS patients than in the healthy volunteers. The correspondence between this finding and the abnormalities in white matter in this particular part of the brain suggest that it is unlikely that these two findings were coincidental.

As significant as these findings are, Zeineh says further study is needed to confirm the results. The scientists are planning to conduct a larger study in the future.

Source: Stanford Medicine News Center October 2014

- See more at: http://www.drlam.com/blog/chronic-fatigue-change-the-brain/5737/#sthash.M8L96P0a.dpuf
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Slow_Leopard
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2015, 02:53:18 PM »

This looks interesting,

I still think however the biggest roadblock to research is finding patients with legitimate CFS.  By this I do not mean people are faking, I mean that it is so easy to get CFS or Fibro symtpoms without having either.  I for example possibly had PVFS but it is hard to tell because of a bunch of other stuff.

A small sample like that means that just 4 or 4 misdiagnosis will skew the results.  I would be interested in knowing how well they screen the candidates, because I know if they just asked GPs for example to hand over 15 patients, a bunch of them would likley have similarily serious problems but with another cause.

Another thing worth thinking about is chronic pain.  I recently attended a pain management program which was by far the best thing I have ever seen on the NHS for chronic treatment, as in it was actually worthwhile and I could not fault it (yeah . . . I know).  They taught us a lot of interesting things about how the brain changes after chronic pain.  I am wondering if the same thing could happen with chronic fatigue, as in what they are seeing here an effect not a cause, and there could still be many unidentified causes leading to this effect.

Interesting stuff though and good to see you kicking about Roger.
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roger
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2015, 10:19:14 AM »

Hi SL,

I decided some time ago to only Ďkick aboutí when I found something interesting that had nothing to do with my personal opinions, which I know arenít popular.  Smiley

Yes, this small research is interesting, but as you say, the results might well be showing effect rather than cause. In fact I suspect that to be the case. But Iíll look out for the promised larger trial.
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