Brain Electrical Activity Mapping (BEAM) was used to test CFS(ME) and FMS patients with abnormalities in circulation to the brain (temporal lobes) The researchers found that it was impossible to distinguish between CFS(ME) and FMS patients even if the FMS patients did not report difficulties with memory.
Brain Scan Results7
- PET (Positron Emission Tomography) research has shown that there is a far lower degree of activity in the frontal lobe of the brain of people with CFS(ME) when compared with normal (control) individuals or when compared with a group of depressed patients who also showed some lowering of activity in these areas.
- Dr Jay Goldstein, using SPECT technology, examined 33 patients with CFS, 15 of whom also met the criteria for FMS. Scans showed marked reduction in blood flow in the right hemisphere of the brain, especially amongst FMS patients.
- James Mountz MD and Laurence Bradley, using SPECT, examined the cerebral blood flow of 10 FMS patients and found a decrease in the region of the caudate nuclei (right and left) which is involved in memory and concentration as well as pain regulation functions.
- 100 FMS patients with chronic headaches were examined by Dr.Thomas Romano using SPECT, and 97 were shown to have blood flow imbalances involving reductions in flow to the temporal and frontal regions of the brain.
The Hormone Link
Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis imbalances can result in changes which are common in CFS(ME) and FMS including:
- an increase in substance P (leading to more pain)
- a decrease in growth hormone production
- a decrease in energy production
Hormonal imbalances are common in these patient populations, for example 40% of FMS patients have premenstrual problems and 10% of people with low thyroid function have FMS.
Dr.Muhammad Yunus sees the imbalance in FMS as partly at least due to a ‘neuroendocrine’ disorder. He points out that pain and other symptoms common to FMS are transmitted through the central nervous system by neurotransmitters such as substance P, which enhances pain transmissions.
On the other end of the spectrum are neurotransmitters which reduce pain such as serotonin as well as derivatives of serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine.
When there is excess substance P and deficiency of serotonin pain will be felt excessively and research has shown that in FMS there is indeed excess substance P in the spinal fluid (three times normal levels) and also that serotonin is very low.
Limbic system: is this the key to the brain’s role in fibromyalgia?8
The area of the brain most affected by poor blood supply seems to involve the limbic system. The network of nerves which are influenced by it can be seen as a computer which processes information arriving from the body, involving both neural messages and hormonal influences. The limbic system modifies and integrates this information with the experience and attitudes the person has acquired, and selects appropriate responses designed to improve the function and survival potentials of the individual.
The limbic system also strongly influences homeostasis as well as the stability of body temperature, mood appetite, sympathetic nervous system function, immune system efficiency; the selection of adaptive responses to stress, memory regulation, much of sleep function, control of hormonal balance as well as a number of thought processes including our emotional and behavioural response to pain.