There is significant heterogeneity in pain outcomes following motor vehicle crashes (MVCs), such that a sizeable portion of individuals develop symptoms of chronic pain months after injury while others recover. Despite variable outcomes, the pathogenesis of chronic pain is currently unclear. Previous neuroimaging work implicates the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in adaptive control of pain, while prior resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies find increased functional connectivity (FC) between the dACC and regions involved in pain processing in those with chronic pain. Hyper-connectivity of the dACC to regions that mediate pain response may therefore relate to pain severity. The present study completed rsfMRI scans on N=22 survivors of MVCs collected within two weeks of the incident to test whole-brain dACC-FC as a predictor of pain severity six months later. At two weeks, pain symptoms were predicted by positive connectivity between the dACC and the premotor cortex. Controlling for pain symptoms at two weeks, pain symptoms at six months were predicted by negative connectivity between the dACC and the precuneus. Previous research implicates the precuneus in the individual subjective awareness of pain. Given a relatively small sample size, approximately half of which did not experience chronic pain at six months, findings warrant replication. Nevertheless, this study provides preliminary evidence of enhanced dACC connectivity with motor regions and decreased connectivity with pain processing regions as immediate and prospective predictors of pain following MVC. PERSPECTIVE: This article presents evidence of distinct neural vulnerabilities that predict chronic pain in motor vehicle crash survivors based on whole-brain connectivity with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.