Neuroinflammation in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Direct Evidence at Last

Neuroinflammation in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Direct Evidence at Last

New research provides evidence of neuroinflammation in chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS,) thus providing support for the alternative name myalgic encephalomyelitis.

In this small study, PET scans of the brains revealed inflammation in the following areas of the brain:

  • Cingulate cortex
  • Hippocampus
  • Amygdala
  • Thalamus
  • Midbrain
  • Pons

When comparing results to symptoms, researchers found that cognitive impairment was linked to inflammation in the amygdala, thalamus, and midbrain. Pain was linked to cingulate cortex inflammation, and depression to hippocampus inflammation.

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Researchers concluded that widespread inflammation of the brain is a feature of ME/CFS and is associated with the severity of certain symptoms. They say this work is essential for understanding the pathology of the condition as well as for developing better diagnostic criteria and treatments.

The Significance
For years, some researchers have hypothesized that neuroinflammation was at work in ME/CFS. In fact, that’s where the name myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) comes from – encephalomyelitis means “inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.”

Some countries have adopted ME as the preferred term for this illness. However, much of the U.S. medical community has rejected this name because there was no direct evidence of neuroinflammation.

The implications of this study could be enormous. If further research supports the findings – this was, after all, a small study – it could lead not only to better diagnostics and treatments as the researchers suggest, it would also provide the validation people with ME/CFS have been waiting for.

If the name “chronic fatigue syndrome” could be ditched and replaced with “myalgic encephalomyelitis,” it could only make the illness be taken more seriously by the public. No longer would you tell people your diagnosis and have them say, “I get tired, too.” (Can you even imagine someone casually saying, “I wonder sometimes if my brain is inflammed”?) Heck, the unwieldiness of the name alone will keep it from being the butt of jokes, never mind that few people will know what those big medical words mean.

More importantly, though, would be a change in the medical community. If researchers can point to an underlying pathology that correlates directly with symptoms, doctors will have to accept that yes, this is a real disease and it warrants attention. Your doctors will take you seriously, more research will be done, and drug manufacturers will have better treatment targets.

Again, this is a small study in an area that needs a lot more investigation before it’ll change anything. It is, however, an important step in what could be a really right direction.

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