The new study is different in that fibromyalgia patients' pain responses were measured while they were at rest and not being exposed to anything painful, Napadow said.
The brain networks involved were the default mode network (DMN) and the right executive attention network (EAN). The DMN is involved in "self-referential thinking," when you think about yourself or what's happening to you, Napadow explained.
The EAN is involved in working memory and attention. When that brain network is occupied, or distracted, by pain, it may explain some of the cognitive issues that fibromyalgia patients experience, Napadow said.
Dr. Philip Mease, director of rheumatology research at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and a member of the National Fibromyalgia Association medical advisory board, said the study provides insight into what may be going on in the brains of people with fibromyalgia.
"This work shows there is increased connectivity between different brain centers that connect the purely sensory pain processing centers of the brain with some of the emotional and evaluative parts of the brain, or areas of the brain that take a sensory stimulus and say, "How do I interpret this? How do I feel about this'?" Mease said.
For years, fibromyalgia has been a highly misunderstood syndrome, with some doctors doubting it even existed, and others attributing the pain to depression or other psychological issues.
That began to change early this decade, when brain scans showed pain-processing abnormalities in fibromyalgia patients, Mease said.
"That first neuroimaging study really demonstrated fibromyalgia patients were different than normal individuals, and at a neurobiological level, were truly ex
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