AJNR. American journal of neuroradiology 2016 11 24()
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
To date, most structural brain imaging studies in individuals with nonspecific low back pain have evaluated volumetric changes. These alterations are particularly found in sensorimotor-related areas. Although it is suggested that specific measures, such as cortical surface area and cortical thickness, reflect different underlying neural architectures, the literature regarding these different measures in individuals with nonspecific low back pain is limited. Therefore, the current study was designed to investigate the association between the performance on a sensorimotor task, more specifically the sit-to-stand-to-sit task, and cortical surface area and cortical thickness in individuals with nonspecific low back pain and healthy controls.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Seventeen individuals with nonspecific low back pain and 17 healthy controls were instructed to perform 5 consecutive sit-to-stand-to-sit movements as fast as possible. In addition, T1-weighted anatomic scans of the brain were acquired and analyzed with FreeSurfer.
Compared with healthy controls, individuals with nonspecific low back pain needed significantly more time to perform 5 sit-to-stand-to-sit movements (P < .05). Brain morphometric analyses revealed that cortical thickness of the ventrolateral prefrontal cortical regions was increased in patients with nonspecific low back pain compared with controls. Furthermore, decreased cortical thickness of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex was associated with lower sit-to-stand-to-sit performance on an unstable support surface in individuals with nonspecific low back pain and healthy controls (r = -0.47, P < .007). In addition, a positive correlation was found between perceived pain intensity and cortical thickness of the superior frontal gyrus (r = 0.70, P < .002) and the pars opercularis of the inferior ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (r = 0.67, P < .004). Hence, increased cortical thickness was associated with increased levels of pain intensity in individuals with nonspecific low back pain. No associations were found between cortical surface area and the pain characteristics in this group. CONCLUSIONS
The current study suggests that cortical thickness may contribute to different aspects of sit-to-stand-to-sit performance and perceived pain intensity in individuals with nonspecific low back pain.