Chronic fatigue syndrome linked to changes in brain ganglia

  • Changes are observed in the basal ganglia of the brain related to chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Inflammation caused by viruses could be related to this disorder
  • The way is opening to new treatments to treat this disorder

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex, debilitating disorder characterized by severe fatigue that does not improve with bed rest and may worsen with exercise or mental stress. It is very difficult to diagnose since it can be confused with psychological disorders such as severe depression or similar.

Index The key basal ganglia in chronic fatigue syndrome Getting to the basal ganglia How the study on chronic fatigue syndrome was carried out

Chronic fatigue syndrome

A recent study carried out with brain images reveals that patients who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome present brain alterations that consist of a reduction in the response in an area of the brain that is related to fatigue. These findings seem to suggest that chronic fatigue syndrome It is associated with changes in brain regions that regulate motor activity and motivation .

The key basal ganglia in chronic fatigue syndrome

For the study, healthy people were studied with people who suffered from this syndrome and it was found that the latter had less activation of the basal ganglia measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Reduced basal ganglia activity was also related to the severity of chronic fatigue symptoms.

Lead author of the study, Andrew Miller, MD notes, “We chose the basal ganglia as they are primary targets of inflammation in the brain. (…) The results of a series of previous studies suggest that increased inflammation may be a contributing factor to fatigue in patients with CFS, and could be the root cause in some patients.”

The study was conducted by researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine in collaboration with the CDC School of Medicine, Chronic Viral Diseases, and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy.

The basal ganglia are structures deep within the brain, thought to be responsible for the control of movements and response to reward, as well as cognitive functions. Several neurological disorders involve dysfunction of the basal ganglia, including Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, for example.

Reaching the basal ganglia

In previous studies published by researchers at Emory University, people taking interferon alfa as a treatment for hepatitis C, which can induce severe fatigue, also showed decreased activity in the basal ganglia. Interferon alpha is a protein produced naturally by the body, as part of the inflammatory response to viral infection. Inflammation has also been linked to fatigue in other groups, such as breast cancer survivors.

“Several previous studies have suggested that responses to viruses may underlie some cases of chronic fatigue syndrome,” says Miller. » Our data support the idea that the body’s immune response to viruses could be associated with fatigue, affecting the brain through inflammation. We continue to study how inflammation affects the basal ganglia and the effects it has on other brain regions and brain function. These future studies could help produce new treatments.”

The findings of this study are key to the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, which may include the potential usefulness of medications to alter the body’s immune response by blocking inflammation, or providing medications that improve lymph node function. basal, says the study group.

How the study on chronic fatigue syndrome was carried out

The researchers compared 18 patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome with 41 healthy volunteers. The 18 patients were recruited based on an initial telephone survey followed by extensive clinical evaluations. The clinical evaluations, which came into two phases, were completed by hundreds of Georgia residents. People with severe depression or who were taking antidepressants were excluded from the study.

For the brain imaging study, participants were told they would win a dollar if they correctly guessed whether a preselected card was red or black. After expressing what result the card was believed to have, the actual color was revealed and at that point the researchers measured blood flow to the basal ganglia.

The key measure was: how big is the difference in activity between a win or a loss? Participants’ scores on a survey to measure their fatigue levels were linked to the difference in basal ganglia activity between winning and losing.

Those who suffered more fatigue had smaller changes in the activity of the basal ganglia, especially in the right caudate nucleus and the right globus pallidus, two of the parts of the basal ganglia that are also structured in the putamen, subthalamic nucleus and substantia nigra. .

Ongoing studies at Emory are further investigating the impact of inflammation on the basal ganglia, including studies using anti-inflammatory treatments to reduce fatigue and loss of motivation in patients with depression and other disorders with inflammation, including cancer.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome are often very misunderstood and advances in the treatment of this disorder are a very positive factor in improving their quality of life and their relationship with those around them.

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