Background: Without stimulation, the human brain spontaneously produces highly organized, low-frequency fluctuations of neural activity in intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs). Furthermore, without adequate explanatory nociceptive input, patients with somatoform pain disorder experience pain symptoms, thus implicating a central dysregulation of pain homeostasis. The present study aimed to test whether interactions among pain-related ICNs, such as the default mode network (DMN), cingular-insular network (CIN) and sensorimotor network (SMN), are altered in somatoform pain during resting conditions.
Methods: Patients with somatoform pain disorder and healthy controls underwent resting functional magnetic resonance imaging that lasted 370 seconds. Using a data-driven approach, the ICNs were isolated, and the functional network connectivity (FNC) was computed.
Results: Twenty-one patients and 19 controls enrolled in the study. Significant FNC (p < 0.05, corrected for false discovery rate) was detected between the CIN and SMN/anterior DMN, the anterior DMN and posterior DMN/SMN, and the posterior DMN and SMN. Interestingly, no group differences in FNC were detected.
Limitations: The most important limitation of this study was the relatively short resting state paradigm.
Conclusion: To our knowledge, our results demonstrated for the first time the resting FNC among pain-related ICNs. However, our results suggest that FNC signatures alone are not able to characterize the putative central dysfunction underpinning somatoform pain disorder.