Brain swelling seen in fibromyalgia patients for the first time

Brain inflammation has been an important topic of discussion and research, especially for patients with chronic pain. However, more recently brain inflammation has been seen and studied in fibromyalgia patients for the first time.

The research teams that led this study included: Daniel S. Albrecht, PhD, and Marco Loggia, PhD, with the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, who combined efforts with Anton Forsberg, PhD , with the Department of Clinical Neuroscience. at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. With their combined efforts and examinations, they were able to expand the limits of their studies. For the first time, researchers can see generalized inflammation (glial cells) in the brains of fibromyalgia patients through the process of using two imaging techniques, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) or MR scanning. / PET.

It is important that patients have the validation they deserve, especially when doctors or other professionals can rule out certain symptoms or feelings in the world of medicine. In fact, people are often led to believe that what they are experiencing is imaginary. However, by finding evidence of neurochemical changes in the brains of fibromyalgia patients, the bias or stigma faced by various of the patients can be reduced.

Please note that I am not a doctor. Although this article has been the subject of extensive research, do not replace the following information with the experience or advice of your physician. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your doctor as soon as possible.

What are glial cells?


Glial cells are the most abundant in the central nervous system. They surround the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. They support and protect neurons. There are different types of glial cells found in the brain, including astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes.


Detection and observation of glial cell activation is an important process during study and imaging of the brain in patients with chronic pain. MR / PET is a process that combines two processes together.

An MRI does not use radiation. Provides structural and functional details of tissues through the use of powerful magnets, radio waves, and a computer.

PET scans use specific dyes that contain radioactive tracers. These tracers accumulate in places where there is higher chemical activity, which means that certain conditions may be easier to discern as they may demonstrate or have a higher level of chemical activity. The exploration will show bright spots at the site of chemical activity. More specifically, it detects where the radiation is emitted.

With combined MR / PET techniques, researchers can document neuroinflammation in patients with chronic pain. More specifically, it can help detect whether fibromyalgia patients also have activated glial cells, which will be discussed further in this article.


The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) study team conducted research in 2015 focused on glial cell activation in patients with chronic pain. They successfully imaged neuroinflammation in the patients using combined MR / PET scanning techniques. The team tested and hypothesized that fibromyalgia patients may have activated glial cells. They used a radiotracer that binds to the translocator protein (TSPO) within the study.


Similar to the previous study, the Karolinska Institute team carried out a related approach. The research team investigated and observed the TSPO-binding marker PET.

Both teams combined their studies and techniques within their study of fibromyalgia patients.


Researchers have evidently seen brain swelling in fibromyalgia patients for the first time using combined MR / PET techniques. Fibromyalgia patients who reported higher levels of fatigue showed higher levels of TSPO in the brain. More specifically, it was found in a specific region of the brain that is connected to emotional processing, called the cingulate gyrus. Therefore, glial activity may be region-related in association with fatigue. Due to the discovery of more inflammation in fibromyalgia patients than healthy controls, it may lead to future discoveries and further studies.

These findings are just the beginning. This research and evidence can help verify that the pain fibromyalgia patients face is not imaginary and that what they feel and experience is real. Of course, you don’t need someone to tell you this, but it can help broaden the scientific and medical field. This can lead to future studies and more observations. Because there is no cure or treatment for fibromyalgia, studies focused on brain inflammation in fibromyalgia patients can help find a way to alleviate certain symptoms.

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