The brain in chronic CRPS pain: abnormal gray-white matter interactions in emotional and autonomic regions

Neuron. 2008 Nov 26;60(4):570-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.08.022.


Chronic complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a debilitating pain condition accompanied by autonomic abnormalities. We investigated gray matter morphometry and white matter anisotropy in CRPS patients and matched controls. Patients exhibited a disrupted relationship between white matter anisotropy and whole-brain gray matter volume; gray matter atrophy in a single cluster encompassing right insula, right ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), and right nucleus accumbens; and a decrease in fractional anisotropy in the left cingulum-callosal bundle. Reorganization of white matter connectivity in these regions was characterized by branching pattern alterations, as well as increased (VMPFC to insula) and decreased (VMPFC to basal ganglion) connectivity. While regional atrophy differentially related to pain intensity and duration, the strength of connectivity between specific atrophied regions related to anxiety. These abnormalities encompass emotional, autonomic, and pain perception regions, implying that they likely play a critical role in the global clinical picture of CRPS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / pathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology
  • Atrophy / etiology
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Atrophy / physiopathology*
  • Autonomic Pathways / pathology
  • Autonomic Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / pathology
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Corpus Callosum / pathology
  • Corpus Callosum / physiopathology
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / pathology
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / pathology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology