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Keywords:

  • chronic pain;
  • functional connectivity;
  • insula;
  • posterior cingulate;
  • resting-state fMRI

Objective

Musculoskeletal disorders are common and often lead to chronic pain in older adults. Because the efficacy of interventions varies with the duration of pain, the identification of early biomarkers for chronic pain would have important public health consequences. Imaging of functional connectivity differences between brain regions might identify some of the earliest functional consequences of a disease process. We tested the hypothesis that chronic musculoskeletal pain in older persons is associated with changes in functional brain connectivity.

Method

We used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and a spherical seed-based region of interest approach to assess functional connectivity of brain regions on a sample of 128 (64 who reported chronic musculoskeletal pain and 64 demographically matched, pain free) nondemented older adults from the Memory and Aging Project, a clinical-pathological cohort study of aging and dementia.

Results

Older adults with chronic pain showed greater functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate and left insula, left superior temporal gyrus, and left cerebellum.

Conclusion

Chronic musculoskeletal pain is associated with a specific pattern of functional connectivity between brain regions among older adults. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.