Reduced Gray Matter
One of the reasons fibromyalgia is understood so little and under-diagnosed, is due to the fact that physical findings are few and far between. You can't see fibromyalgia in an x-ray or on a blood test. Physicians must rely on symptoms as patients report them since it is very difficult to measure pain, sleep disturbances, and fatigue. Because of the lack of cold hard test results, some physicians still don't believe that fibromyalgia is a "real disease." They subscribe to the theory that "seeing is believing." For this reason, researchers lust after finding firm physical data that can be reproduced over and over again in relation to fibromyalgia syndrome.
One such finding generated by some such scientific studies is the fact that there is a reduction in gray matter in certain areas of the brain in those people diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome. Until recent days, however, the reason behind this particular finding remained a mystery. Now, scientists from Louisiana State University have reported in The Journal of Pain that they believe the reduction in gray matter in the brains of fibromyalgia patients is due to shifting levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter.
For the purposes of this study, scientists analyzed the results of magnetic imaging resonance studies (MRI) from 30 women with confirmed diagnoses of fibromyalgia and compared these with similar MRI studies from 20 women of the same age but in good health. The major focus of this research was to reproduce earlier findings about the reduced density of gray matter in a wider sampling of patients with fibromyalgia. In addition, the researchers looked into a possible link between the activity level of dopamine within the metabolism of fibromyalgia patients and the density of the gray matter in certain regions of the brain.
The earlier findings of reduced gray matter in fibromyalgia patients was borne out in this larger study, with the 30 fibromyalgia patients showing a significant reduction in gray matter. It was also found that there was a definite and firm correlation between levels of metabolized dopamine and reduced gray matter density in those sections of the brain in which dopamine plays an important role in neurological workings. The scientists believe that pinpointing this link between levels of dopamine and gray matter density may lead to new ideas on the mechanism between fibromyalgia and abnormal findings in brain scans.