Fibromyalgia (FM) is a generalized chronic pain condition whose pathophysiology is poorly understood, and both basic and translational research are needed to advance the field. Here we used the Sluka model to test whether FM-like pain in mice would produce detectable brain modifications using resting-state (rs) functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Mice received intramuscular acid saline treatment, images were acquired at 7 T 5 days post-treatment, and pain thresholds tested 3 weeks post-scanning. Data-driven Independent Component Analysis revealed significant reduction of functional connectivity (FC) across several component pairs, with major changes for the Retrosplenial cortex (RSP) central to the default mode network, and to a lesser extent the Periaqueductal gray (PAG), a key pain processing area. Seed-to-seed analysis focused on 14 pain-related areas showed strongest FC reduction for RSP with several cortical areas (somatosensory, prefrontal and insular), and for PAG with both cortical (somatosensory) and subcortical (habenula, thalamus, parabrachial nucleus) areas. RSP-PAG FC was also reduced, and this decreased FC tended to be positively correlated with pain levels at individual subject level. Finally, seed-voxelwise analysis focused on PAG confirmed seed-to-seed findings and, also detected reduced PAG FC with the anterior cingulate cortex, increasingly studied in aversive pain effects. In conclusion, FM-like pain triggers FC alterations in the mouse, which are detected by rs-fMRI and are reminiscent of some human findings. The study reveals the causal fingerprint of FM-like pain in rodents, and indicates that both RSP and PAG connectional patterns could be suitable biomarkers, with mechanistic and translational value, for further investigations.

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PubMed