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Adrienne Dellwo

Abnormal Brain Signals & Fibromyalgia Symptoms

By August 27, 2011

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Research Brief

Recent research out of Korea has linked abnormalities in 2 regions of the brain with fibromyalgia pain.

Researchers in this small study used a special brain scan called a blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) contrast fMRI to look for different reactions to pain in fibromyalgia and healthy controls in response to varying amounts of pressure.

They say scans revealed significant activity differences in the insular cortex (IC) and superior temporal gyrus (STG) at medium and high pressure levels. Furthermore, at medium pressure levels the amount of change in the STG was greater for those with more tender points.

The Insular Cortex

The insular cortex, also called the insula, deals with myriad functions, including:

  • Judging the degree of pain
  • Emotion
  • Blood pressure regulation, especially during exertion
  • Empathy
  • Judging temperature level
  • Homeostasis
  • Body awareness
  • Eye movement
  • Swallowing
  • Gastric motility
  • Use of complex language

Previous research has linked fibromyalgia to high levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate in this region. Glutamate is an excitotoxin, which means it stimulates activity -- and sometimes a dangerous level of over-activity -- in brain cells.

The Superior Temporal Gyrus

The superior temporal gyrus deals with many functions as well, including:

  • Sound processing, including frequency and amplitude
  • Language comprehension
  • Language production, including word generation and object naming
  • Social cognition (interpreting and reacting to social cues)

Previous fibromyalgia research has identified a decreased grey matter in this region, suggesting altered function. STG abnormalities may also be associated with language and social impairment in autism.

Abnormal activity in the IC and the STG could help explain many symptoms of fibromyalgia. This research also supports the prevailing theory that fibromyalgia is a neurological illness.

Learn more or join the conversation!


Photo D-BASE/Getty Images

August 28, 2011 at 7:20 am
(1) SHARON lEVIN says:

The name commonly used is called CENTRAL SENSITAZATION from the cortex of the brain, showing heightend/lowered pain threshold in fibromyalgia ( Research EMG studies actually showed this brain study in 2008). Our brains appearance and functionality thus, were visually seen to be different to all others, no matter other conditions or no conditions at all! The study you are talking about has had many tongues wagging – many FM’s have really high pain thresholds whilst others, with other added Neurological conditions esp, have more burning feelings, electric shocks, etc thus the CS name. What has been found to improve this condition is high Omega 3 seed and fish oils, high dosages of Magnesium citrate/+glycinate/, cutting out all acidic fruits and foods, stopping all colas and sparkling drinks, gluten, wheat, lactose, sugars, honey and salt and watching products bought for elimination purposes. Preservatives eg sodium benzoate etc also increase the CS problem. Many drs give drugs to de-sensitise the CNS, but without the elimination knowledge, the side-effects of such drugs do many more harm than good. Sharon Levin Researcher http://www.fibromyalgiasa.co.za

August 28, 2011 at 11:10 am
(2) Bill says:

It is extremely depressing to see a scientific study answered by yet another claim for nutrition therapy for therapy. I have yet to understand the motivation of any claim for vitamin, mineral or dietary treatments except if the person is selling the products or (forgive me) demented enough to think this actually works.

Other forums scorn “treatment evangelicalism.”

Please–no claims for a “CURE!” when this does not exist.

August 29, 2011 at 12:47 pm
(3) leorising says:

Yes! Thank you. So tired of the “we have the answer” people. If they had “the answer”, science would know about it, or the buzz on the boards would at least be greater, because many people would be benefiting from it. It’s tough being so vulnerable, always looking for another drug or therapy that might work, because sometimes we luck into something that actually DOES work! These people are just vultures, preying on the weak.

We have enough problems, leave us alone!

September 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm
(4) Ivette says:

Yes! Well said. I’m tired of them too.

September 3, 2011 at 10:04 pm
(5) Ewok says:

I also concur with Bill and Leorising.

October 8, 2011 at 11:09 am
(6) pam says:

Yea shame on people trying to make a buck off people in pain. Just shame on you.

September 14, 2011 at 8:14 am
(7) Rene says:

Sharon didn’t say cure and I believe additives’ reaction’ ‘can mimic or make FMS worse

September 23, 2011 at 4:35 am
(8) Ali says:

The reason that people talk about vitimin, mineral and other nutrient therapy is because there is sound scientific and medical principles and research saying that they have a significant role in treating fibromyalgia and other illness. Many of the drugs prescribed for fibromyalgia work on the same principles as nutrients can, and some systems in the body require supplimentation of certain nutrients which drugs cannot replicate. An example is Lyrica…it works by having a positive effect on GABA levels which is required to suppress certain neurotransmitters in the brain and help in the conversion of certain chemicals in the brain (which then reduces pain and other CNS over activity). Nutrients such as 5htp also help to increase GABA (which is generally low in people with FM) and can have the same effect as Lyrica but without the side effects and with other bonus health promoting benefits. Another example is in the methylation cycle of the body which is usually not working in people with FM (and many other illnesses) and leads to many other chemical imbalances and symptoms in fibro. This can only be corrected if correct levels of b12 and folate are functioning in the body. There are illnesses which are fatal unless certain vitimins/minerals/nutrients are administered. They are not cures, but treatments for specific chemical imbalances in the body. To claim that nutrients have no role in treatment is kind of….ridiculous.

August 28, 2011 at 11:13 am
(9) Bill says:

Oh, and a quick follow-up.

The poster above with the “CURE!” is selling nutrition therapy products from South Africa. Her commentary is just

August 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm
(10) moineau says:

bill, you are so right on and i applaud you for hitting the nail on the head. cures my butt. elimation diets have helped my gut but not my extreme pain level which is 24/7. there is absolutely no change w/ dietary change, omega 3s or anything else! stop the nonsense.

i went for “microvibrational” massage and supplements from this woman’s clinic 10 yrs ago. after several weeks and 1000s of dollars she said, “now isn’t this better?” and i said, “actually i feel no change in my pain level.” and she answered, “then it must be your attitude.”

that’s what they all say, isn’t it? yeah, blame the victims of this terrible illness and me/cfs too. i hate it. ~laura

October 8, 2011 at 11:19 am
(11) Pam says:

Amen to all and if I stand on one foot and stick my tongue out one side I Will be cured.I am diet supplemented out and over advice from people who do not have this disease. Just please don’t offer up stupid advice an try and scam us cause we have all been scamed enough that includes the medical field as well.

August 29, 2011 at 5:14 am
(12) suzy ward says:

HI Bill, thanks very much for your helpful information. I have suffered with fm/cfs for almost 10 years now and have been utterley bamboozled by clicking from website to website only to be told by one, not to eat the food that is highlighted as food to eat, by another!! There is no cure and every thing we do or take is in a mode of trial and error. I used aspartame for about twenty years until my son informed me that it had been linked to cancer, MS and FM!! I dont used flouride toothpaste as that too is a poison. I eat fresh fruit and veg unless we have preserved it ourselves at home. I eat meat and some dairy and i also take some supplements. I might add that I neither feel any better for taking them, but I dont feel any worse for them either! Gentle hugs to all sufferers. Suzy

September 1, 2011 at 3:44 am
(13) Judith Bentley says:

Some of the foods Sharon Levin mentions have been shown through scientific research to help reduce FMS symptoms because they contain glutamates or affect the body’s absorption of glutamates. This information is available to FMS sufferers but the elimination diet is not a path most people want to follow. Americans want a pill or some other easy solution. Stay tuned, because there is a growing body of scientific evidence that eliminating glutamates is the right way to go.

September 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm
(14) Ivette says:

PLEASE!!!! Don’t make me laugh. You just sound like one of my family members who just told me that I haven’t tried everything there is out there “to cure” my FMS. LOL!

September 23, 2011 at 4:25 am
(15) Ali says:

I agree with you Judith. I have had fibro for 20 years (and now also ME, and arthritis). I had always known that my symptoms were worse when I at poorly, but had not linked it specifically to particular foods. When getting much more seriously ill and looking further into the particular naturally occuring food chemicals in different healthy foods I learned more about glutemates and solonines. I have now eliminated foods high in these two chemicals and also started to suppliment with lots of different nutrients including ones that helps the correct use of glutemate (glutemate having been found to be in excess in parts of the brain in FM, and is not being converted correctly into other necessary chemicals the body needs for correct function). Since starting this (and also eliminating other foods I’m intolerant to such as gluten) I have been able to go from being bedridden for most of the time to being able to be up and walking around. Food and suppliments has done this for me, not drugs.

September 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm
(16) Bill Z says:

Please look into Lyme disease and something most DR’s don’t even know about co-infections like Bartonella,babesious,rocky mountian fever and more.

most cfs,fm-er have these issue i wish you would go further as i like your site sincerly Bill

I have spelling and typo issues please forgive me

September 3, 2011 at 5:22 am
(17) dale says:

Many of us with CFIDS/FMS have high titres for Epstein Barr/HHV6/Cytomegalo(y) virus. I do believe there are issues with viruses, spirochetes (Lyme), bacterial infections etc. in many of us. It is too ironic that so many have the three above viruses & have severe CFIDS.

September 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm
(18) Nitalynn says:

Our problem with viruses is understanding the cause/effect relationship. Does one of the viruses cause our condition or does our condition cause us to be more vulnerable to certain viruses or viruses in general. The main problem is that so little is yet known about fibromyalgia that basic questions like this have no answers yet. The solution is money for this very basic research. The only people putting large sums into the any kind of fibro research is drug companies and of course they don’t want to cure the disease. That would be like killing the goose that laid the golden egg! I have told my husband that I’ve come to believe it is a conspiracy between certain people in the medical community, the government and big pharma and he laughed and accused me of being a conspiracy nut. Maybe I am but this condition is enough to cause you to become paranoid!

September 6, 2011 at 9:34 am
(19) g says:

It so much explains why I get ping-pong headaches. If what the picture shows then I brains need to be retrained. So, yes it is all in our heads, lol. I having been studying the brain ever since I was diagnosed and this makes so much sense. Although, I want to scream “I told you so” to the professionals, it is a great affirmation. There is so much we still don’t know about the brain and I consider those of us diagnosed blessed. We just may not see it yet. It took me quite sometime to see the silver lining.

October 22, 2011 at 5:07 am
(20) Tess says:

I am guilty of trying “everything” I can to try and cure or at least get some relief from the pain of FM and bursitis. That is all I have, just hope that one day I will get better and return to my job. Maybe have somewhat of a normal life again, one where at least I don’t miss appointments and I am not always late. Or worse yet, I just don’t go cause I am too sick or too tired from lack of sleep. Sorry, I can’t just stop hoping.

May 12, 2012 at 12:11 am
(21) Rosemary Peppercorn says:

After many years, I have come to the conclusion, slowly, that all the dietary advice from the first poster is the ONLY way I can eat. I can’t function without fish oil every day, especially. I haven’t had wheat or acidic foods in years. Like anything, it helps SOME people. It’s always worth a try.

August 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm
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October 21, 2012 at 5:18 am
(23) Sabrina waterman says:

I have had fybromalgia for over 25 years, and have tried everything, I have had a cupboard full of vitamins, oils, rubs, lineaments, chiro, physio, accupunture, and at end of the day nothing works! I’m on medication prescribed by my doctor which helps my depression, but that’s it! I find the change of the weather effects my fybro, especially the cold, and definitely the grey miserable days, also extreme changes of the weather. I go to Bali in our winter (June July August ) as the temperature there is always 29 degrees, perfect! I also find stress to be the other factor that brings on my fybro, and doing to much!! but I have learnt to recognize that I can’t do what I used to do, as i havent worked for over 10years.I hate having fybro every single day, but I know it could be so so worse!!

December 24, 2012 at 10:36 am
(24) Dave says:

Thanks for delivering this information. It is extremely important for both patients and clinicians alike to understand the neurological changes at work in fibromyalgia. The term itself is confusing: fibro- connective tissue, myalgia- muscle pain, this does not even begin to address what the underlying causes and effects actually are. Central sensitization is certainly a much better descriptor and can be much more empowering for sufferers.

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