S1 is associated with chronic low back pain: a functional and structural MRI study
1 Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Harvard Medical School, 120 2nd Ave., Room 101, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA
2 A.A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA USA
3 Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Chestnut Hill, MA USA
Molecular Pain 2013, 9:43 doi:10.1186/1744-8069-9-43Published: 21 August 2013
A fundamental characteristic of neural circuits is the capacity for plasticity in response to experience. Neural plasticity is associated with the development of chronic pain disorders. In this study, we investigated 1) brain resting state functional connectivity (FC) differences between patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP) and matched healthy controls (HC); 2) FC differences within the cLBP patients as they experienced different levels of endogenous low back pain evoked by exercise maneuvers, and 3) morphometric differences between cLBP patients and matched HC. We found the dynamic character of FC in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in cLBP patients, i.e., S1 FC decreased when the patients experienced low intensity LBP as compared with matched healthy controls, and FC at S1 increased when cLBP patients experienced high intensity LBP as compared with the low intensity condition. In addition, we also found increased cortical thickness in the bilateral S1 somatotopically associated with the lower back in cLBP patients as compared to healthy controls. Our results provide evidence of structural plasticity co-localized with areas exhibiting FC changes in S1 in cLBP patients.