Brain Scans To Detect Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A study shows that PET scans could potentially be used to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome.

AsianScientist (Apr. 8, 2014) – Researchers have found that inflammation of the nervous system is higher in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) than in healthy people.

The study, published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, suggests that using positron emission tomography (PET) scans to detect brain inflammation could be an objective diagnostic test for CFS.

CFS, which is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, is a debilitating condition characterized by chronic, profound, and disabling fatigue. Unfortunately, the causes of CFS are not well understood. Neuroinflammation – the inflammation of nerve cells – has been hypothesized to be a cause of the condition, but no clear evidence has been put forth to support this idea.

To show that neuroinflammation is indeed elevated in CFS patients relative to the healthy controls, scientists led by Dr. Yasuyoshi Watanabe at the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies, in collaboration with Osaka City University and Kansai University of Welfare Sciences, targeted a translocator protein that is expressed by activated microglia or astrocytes and known to be active in neuroinflammation.

The researchers performed PET scans on nine people diagnosed with CFS and ten healthy people, and asked them to complete a questionnaire describing their levels of fatigue, cognitive impairment, pain, and depression.

The researchers found that neuroinflammation is higher in CFS patients than in healthy people. Furthermore, they also found that inflammation in certain areas of the brain – the cingulate cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, midbrain and pons – was elevated in a way that correlated with the symptoms. For instance, patients who reported impaired cognition tended to demonstrate neuroinflammation in the amygdala, which is known to be involved in cognition. This provides evidence of the association between neuroinflammation and the symptoms experienced by patients with CFS.

Though the study was a small one, demonstration that PET scanning could be used as an objective test for CFS could someday lead to better diagnosis and new therapies for those afflicted by this condition.

The article can be found at: Nakatomi et al. (2014) Neuroinflammation in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: An 11C-(R)-PK11195 PET Study.


Source: RIKEN; Photo: Soon/Flickr/CC.

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