Chronic pain patients often report higher levels of negative emotions, suggesting reduced ability to regulate emotions effectively, however, little is known of the underlying neural cognitive mechanisms. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore brain activity and connectivity during cognitive reappraisal in chronic low back pain (CLBP).
This study recruited 24 female participants; 12 with CLBP and 12 healthy controls. Participants completed an emotion regulation task that involved cognitive reappraisal of negative images during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The negative affect following each image and perceived success of the task were reported. Region of interest and seed-to-voxel analyses were conducted using key regions involved in cognitive reappraisal (i.e., amygdalae and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) as seed regions.
During the task, there were no group differences in the behavioural measures and blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) brain activation in the seed regions. Functional connectivity analysis showed reduced coupling between the amygdalae and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex and inferior parietal cortex in the CLBP group compared to controls. Connectivity between the amygdala and inferior parietal cortex positively correlated with the percent of reduced negative affect during reappraisal in the CLBP group.
These preliminary findings demonstrate that individuals with CLBP exhibit similar emotion regulation abilities to healthy controls at the behavioural and BOLD level. However, altered functional connectivity observed in the CLBP group may reduce effective cognitive reappraisal. These results provide evidence for the potential clinical impact of network changes in CLBP.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.