Brain corticostriatal circuits are important for understanding chronic pain and highly relevant to motivation and cognitive processes. It has been demonstrated that in patients with chronic back pain, altered nucleus accumbens (NAcc)-medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) circuit fMRI-based activity is predictive of patient outcome. We evaluated the NAcc-MPFC circuit in patients with another chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia, to extend these important findings. First, we compared fMRI-based NAcc-MPFC resting-state functional connectivity in patients with fibromyalgia (N = 32) vs. healthy controls (N = 37). Compared to controls, the NAcc-MPFC circuit's connectivity was significantly reduced in fibromyalgia. In addition, within the fibromyalgia group, NAcc-MPFC connectivity was significantly correlated with trait anxiety. Our expanded connectivity analysis of the NAcc to subcortical brain regions showed reduced connectivity of the right NAcc with mesolimbic circuit regions (putamen, thalamus, and ventral pallidum) in fibromyalgia. Lastly, in an exploratory analysis comparing our fibromyalgia and healthy control cohorts to a separate publicly available dataset from patients with chronic back pain, we identified reduced NAcc-MPFC connectivity across both the patient groups with unique alterations in NAcc-mesolimbic connectivity. Together, expanding upon prior observed alterations in brain corticostriatal circuits, our results provide novel evidence of altered corticostriatal and mesolimbic circuits in chronic pain.
© 2022. The Author(s).