Sensory Perception and Fibromyalgia

Proof of the Pudding

Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by severe and pervasive pain throughout the body has been a recognized disease since 1976, yet researchers are still scratching their heads over what, exactly, the disease is all about: what causes it, and what makes it tick. A new study, the results of which were released in early summer of the year 2008 proves that there is a link between fibromyalgia and irregularities in the central nervous system. The proof of the pudding can be seen in the hypersensitive responses of fibromyalgia patients both to pressure applied to their skin and to auditory stimuli.

The University of Michigan published the results of this study in The Journal of Pain. Researchers examined the reactions of 31 study participants in an effort to determine whether there may be a problem with the central nervous system in processing sensory stimuli for fibromyalgia sufferers. The study was undertaken in response to the realization that there have not been many studies testing the response of fibromyalgia sufferers to various stimuli in a manner befitting scientific research in terms of consistency. The researchers also felt that the subject of how fibromyalgia patients perceive the intensity of pain had not been studied with proper methodology.

In the Michigan study, fibromyalgia patients as well as healthy control subjects were exposed to arbitrary sound and pressure stimuli.

Heightened Perception

As in other, similar studies, it was seen that the study participants with fibromyalgia displayed a heightened perception of auditory tones. The subjects reported experiencing acute discernment of sounds they were exposed to in daily life. The study also revealed that the oversensitive responses to sound and touch in fibromyalgia patients may be caused by an identical physiological mechanism.

When asked to describe the level of intensity of the auditory stimuli they received, the fibromyalgia patients consistently perceived the sounds to be of a greater intensity than those same sounds as described by those in the healthy control group.

The authors feel that these findings are persuasive in establishing a link between fibromyalgia and a deficit in the sensory processing of the central nervous system. A great deal more research is needed to discover just how this sensory comprehension malfunctions in fibromyalgia patients. The researchers have expressed the hope that other studies will be undertaken to determine the exact mechanism of how the bodies of fibromyalgia patients respond to sound and touch as opposed to healthy individuals.

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