Replication of neural responses to monetary incentives and exploration of reward-influenced network connectivity in fibromyalgia.
Neuroimaging research has begun to implicate alterations of brain reward systems in chronic pain. Previously, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a monetary incentive delay (MID) task, Martucci et al. (2018) showed that neural responses to reward anticipation and outcome are altered in fibromyalgia. In the present study, we aimed to test the replicability of these altered neural responses to reward in a separate fibromyalgia cohort. In addition, the present study was conducted at a distinct U.S. location but involved a similar study design. For the present study, 20 patients with fibromyalgia and 20 healthy controls participated in MID task fMRI scan procedures and completed clinical/psychological questionnaires. fMRI analyses comparing patient and control groups revealed a consistent trend of main results which were largely similar to the prior reported results. Specifically, in the replication fibromyalgia cohort, medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) response was reduced during gain anticipation and was increased during no-loss (non-punishment) outcome compared to controls. Also consistent with previous findings, the nucleus accumbens response to gain anticipation did not differ in patients vs. controls. Further, results from similarly-designed behavioral, correlational, and exploratory analyses were complementary to previous findings. Finally, a novel network-based functional connectivity analysis of the MID task fMRI data across patients vs. controls implied enhanced connectivity within the default mode network in participants with fibromyalgia. Together, based on replicating prior univariate results and new network-based functional connectivity analyses of MID task fMRI data, we provide further evidence of altered brain reward responses, particularly in the MPFC response to reward outcomes, in patients with fibromyalgia.