Pain catastrophizing and neural responses to pain among persons with fibromyalgia.

Published

Journal Article

Pain catastrophizing, or characterizations of pain as awful, horrible and unbearable, is increasingly being recognized as an important factor in the experience of pain. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the association between catastrophizing, as measured by the Coping Strategies Questionnaire Catastrophizing Subscale, and brain responses to blunt pressure assessed by functional MRI among 29 subjects with fibromyalgia. Since catastrophizing has been suggested to augment pain perception through enhanced attention to painful stimuli, and heightened emotional responses to pain, we hypothesized that catastrophizing would be positively associated with activation in structures believed to be involved in these aspects of pain processing. As catastrophizing is also strongly associated with depression, the influence of depressive symptomatology was statistically removed. Residual scores of catastrophizing controlling for depressive symptomatology were significantly associated with increased activity in the ipsilateral claustrum (r = 0.51, P < 0.05), cerebellum (r = 0.43, P < 0.05), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (r = 0.47, P < 0.05), and parietal cortex (r = 0.41, P < 0.05), and in the contralateral dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus (ACC; r = 0.43, P < 0.05), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (r = 0.41, P < 0.05), medial frontal cortex (r = 0.40, P < 0.05) and lentiform nuclei (r = 0.40, P < 0.05). Analysis of subjects classified as high or low catastrophizers, based on a median split of residual catastrophizing scores, showed that both groups displayed significant increases in ipsilateral secondary somatosensory cortex (SII), although the magnitude of activation was twice as large among high catastrophizers. Both groups also had significant activations in contralateral insula, SII, primary somatosensory cortex (SI), inferior parietal lobule and thalamus. High catastrophizers displayed unique activation in the contralateral anterior ACC, and the contralateral and ipsilateral lentiform. Both groups also displayed significant ipsilateral activation in SI, anterior and posterior cerebellum, posterior cingulate gyrus, and superior and inferior frontal gyrus. These findings suggest that pain catastrophizing, independent of the influence of depression, is significantly associated with increased activity in brain areas related to anticipation of pain (medial frontal cortex, cerebellum), attention to pain (dorsal ACC, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), emotional aspects of pain (claustrum, closely connected to amygdala) and motor control. These results support the hypothesis that catastrophizing influences pain perception through altering attention and anticipation, and heightening emotional responses to pain. Activation associated with catastrophizing in motor areas of the brain may reflect expressive responses to pain that are associated with greater pain catastrophizing.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Gracely, RH; Geisser, ME; Giesecke, T; Grant, MA; Petzke, F; Williams, DA; Clauw, DJ

Published Date

  • April 2004

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 127 / Pt 4

Start / End Page

  • 835 - 843

PubMed ID

  • 14960499

Pubmed Central ID

  • 14960499

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1460-2156

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0006-8950

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/brain/awh098

Language

  • eng