Affective components and intensity of pain correlate with structural differences in gray matter in chronic back pain patients

T. Schmidt-Wilcke, E. Leinisch, S. Gänßbauer, B. Draganski, U. Bogdahn, J. Altmeppen and A. May

Although chronic back pain is one of the most frequent reasons for permanent impairment in people under 65, the neurobiological mechanisms of chronification remain vague. The aim of this study was to examine if cortical reorganisation plays a role in chronic back pain. The results showed a significant decrease of gray matter in the brainstem and the somatosensory cortex. Correlation analysis of pain unpleasantness and the intensity of pain on the day of scanning revealed a strong negative correlation in these areas. The authors conclude that the results support the hypothesis that ongoing nociception is associated with cortical and subcortical reorganisation on a structural level, which may play an important role in the process of the chronification of pain.

Pain, Volume 125, Issues 1-2, November 2006, Pages 89-97

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