Widespread brain activity during an abdominal task markedly reduced after pain physiology education: fMRI evaluation of a single patient with chronic low back pain

Aust J Physiother. 2005;51(1):49-52. doi: 10.1016/s0004-9514(05)70053-2.


The way people with chronic low back pain think about pain can affect the way they move. This case report concerns a patient with chronic disabling low back pain who underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans during performance of a voluntary trunk muscle task under three conditions: directly after training in the task and, after one week of practice, before and after a 2.5 hour pain physiology education session. Before education there was widespread brain activity during performance of the task, including activity in cortical regions known to be involved in pain, although the task was not painful. After education widespread activity was absent so that there was no brain activation outside of the primary somatosensory cortex. The results suggest that pain physiology education markedly altered brain activity during performance of the task. The data offer a possible mechanism for difficulty in acquisition of trunk muscle training in people with pain and suggest that the change in activity associated with education may reflect reduced threat value of the task.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / psychology*
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome