Does an Exploding Brain Network Cause Chronic Pain?
A new study finds that patients with fibromyalgia have brain networks primed for rapid, global responses to minor changes. This abnormal hypersensitivity, called explosive synchronization (ES), can be seen in other network phenomena across nature.
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea report evidence of ES in the brains of people with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread, chronic pain. The paper details only the second study of ES in human brain data.
“For the first time, this research shows that the hypersensitivity experienced by chronic pain patients may result from hypersensitive brain networks,” says co-senior author Richard Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology at Michigan Medicine with the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. “The subjects had conditions similar to other networks that undergo explosive synchronization.”
In ES, a small stimulus can lead to a dramatic synchronized reaction in the network, as can happen with a power grid failure (that rapidly turns things off) or a seizure (that rapidly turns things on). This phenomenon was, until recently, studied in physics rather than medicine. Researchers say it’s a promising avenue to explore in the continued quest to determine how a person develops fibromyalgia.
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