Previous studies have repeatedly found distinct brain morphometric changes in patients with fibromyalgia (FM), mainly affecting gray and white matter abnormalities in areas related to sensory and affective pain processing. However, few studies have thus far linked different types of structural changes and not much is known about behavioral and clinical determinants that might influence the emergence and progression of such changes.
We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) to detect regional patterns of (micro)structural gray (GM) and white matter (WM) alterations in 23 patients with FM compared to 21 healthy controls (HC), while considering the influence of demographic, psychometric, and clinical variables (age, symptom severity, pain duration, heat pain threshold, depression scores).
VBM and DTI revealed striking patterns of brain morphometric changes in FM patients. Bilateral middle temporal gyrus (MTG), parahippocampal gyrus, left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), right putamen, right caudate nucleus, and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) showed significantly decreased GM volumes. In contrast, increased GM volume was observed in bilateral cerebellum and left thalamus. Beyond that, patients displayed microstructural changes of WM connectivity within the medial lemniscus, corpus callosum, and tracts surrounding and connecting the thalamus. Sensory-discriminative aspects of pain (pain severity, pain thresholds) primarily showed negative correlations with GM within bilateral putamen, pallidum, right midcingulate cortex (MCC), and multiple thalamic substructures, whereas the chronicity of pain was negatively correlated with GM volumes within right insular cortex and left rolandic operculum. Affective-motivational aspects of pain (depressive mood, general activity) were related to GM and FA values within bilateral putamen and thalamus.
Our results suggest a variety of distinct structural brain changes in FM, particularly affecting areas involved in pain and emotion processing such as the thalamus, putamen, and insula.

© 2023. The Author(s).