Structural and functional changes in the brain of patients with Crohn's disease: an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis

Brain Imaging Behav. 2021 Apr;15(2):807-818. doi: 10.1007/s11682-020-00291-w.


Multiple reports for brain functional and structural alterations in patients with Crohn's disease (CD) were published. The current study aimed to meta-analyze the existing neuroimaging data and hence produce a brain map revealing areas with functional and structural differences between patients with CD and healthy controls. Original studies published until 2019 were identified from Scopus, Web of Science and PubMed databases, and included into the analysis if they reported relevant results from task-related or resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI or rsfMRI) or voxel-based morphometry (VBM), in the form of standardized brain coordinates based on whole-brain analysis. The brain coordinates and sample size of significant results were extracted from eligible studies to be meta-analyzed with the activation likelihood estimation method using the GingerALE software. Sixteen original studies comprised of a total of 865 participants fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Compared to healthy controls, patients with CD had reduced resting state brain connectivity in the paracentral lobule and cingulate gyrus as well as reduced grey matter volume in the medial frontal gyrus. No significant results were found vice versa. These neural correlates allow a better understanding on the effects of CD on the pain expectation, emotion, and quality of life of patients and potentially serve as useful biomarkers for evaluating treatment efficacy.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; Magnetic resonance imaging; Meta-analysis; Neuroimaging; Neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Crohn Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Quality of Life