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SfN: Exercise Tied to Neuronal Changes in Fibromyalgia

Last Updated: November 14, 2011.

For patients with fibromyalgia, implementation of an aerobic exercise program after medication cessation increases neuronal activity in areas of the brain related to a memory task and decreases pain sensation, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held from Nov. 12 to 16 in Washington, D.C.

MONDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with fibromyalgia, implementation of an aerobic exercise program after medication cessation increases neuronal activity in areas of the brain related to a memory task and decreases pain sensation, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held from Nov. 12 to 16 in Washington, D.C.

Brian Walitt, M.D., from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington D.C., and colleagues assessed the effect of aerobic exercise on working memory in nine women with fibromyalgia. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was carried out at four visits: at baseline, where patients were taking fibromyalgia medications; at the washout visit, where patients were off all medications for three half lives; at six weeks after stopping medications; and after a six week aerobic exercise intervention. Data for an N-Back fMRI task were collected for each phase. Changes in neuronal activity across visits were assessed using a model related to changes in their patient global impression change (PGIC).

The investigators found that the second-level model related to PGIC changed across visits. The subjective rating of pain increased as patients discontinued their medications, and then decreased with the exercise intervention. Neuronal activity in areas recruited for the working memory task decreased following medication cessation, and then increased on later visits. Increased activation was seen in task-related areas, including the left superior medial frontal, the left dorsal lateral prefrontal, the right mid frontal, the right supplementary motor, the left thalamus, left caudate, left inferior parietal, and bilateral superior parietal regions.

"Exercise may have benefit in both reducing fibromyalgia symptoms and improving cognitive capacity," the authors write.

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