Previous studies have shown that fibromyalgia is associated with reductions in grey matter in parts of the brain, but the exact cause is not known. Using sophisticated brain imaging techniques, researchers from Louisiana State University, writing in The Journal of Pain, found that alterations in levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine might be responsible for grey matter reductions.
For the study, magnetic imaging resonance data from 30 female fibromyalgia patients were compared with 20 healthy women of the same age. The primary objective of the study was to confirm original findings about reduced grey matter density in a larger sample of fibromyalgia patients. They explored whether there is a correlation between dopamine metabolic activity and variations in the density of grey matter in specific brain regions.
Results showed there were significant grey matter reductions in the fibromyalgia patients, which supports previous research. In addition, the fibromyalgia patients showed a strong correlation of dopamine metabolism levels and grey matter density in parts of the brain in which dopamine controls neurological activity. The authors concluded that the connection between dopamine levels and grey matter density provide novel insights to a possible mechanism that explains some of the abnormal brain morphology associated with fibromyalgia.