CFS/ME, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating, life-altering condition that affects many Americans. People with CFS/ME often have no medical help or treatment due to the lack of research and information available up to this time.
CFS/ME renders many of its sufferers chronically housebound and often bed-bound due to the multitude of severe symptoms they contend with.
According to an April 4, 2014 article on Sciencedaily.com, research from the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies, with Osaka City University and Kansai University of Welfare Sciences have shown that functional PET imaging may be useful for people with CFS/ME.
One theory about the cause of CFS/ME has focused on neuroinflammation, though until now there has been a lack of solid evidence. But this research may help to change all that.
Levels of inflammation of the nerve cells, also known as neuroinflammation, were found via PET scan to be significantly higher in those with CFS/ME than in people that are healthy.
A PET scan is a positron emission tomography scan, an imaging test which involves the use of a tracer (a radioactive substance) to identify disease.
The tracer goes into a vein, often inside the elbow, and travels through the blood, collecting in tissues and organs. In this way the tracer highlights the areas the radiologist wishes to study.
A PET scan is different from magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, as well as computed tomography, or CT. These tools show organ structure and the blood flow going to and from various organs.
A PET scan, instead, shows how tissues and organs are functioning. It shows an organ's function, size, shape and position.
The study is a small one, involving nine people with CFS/ME, and 10 people without the condition. Participants completed a questionnaire concerning their levels of cognitive dysfunction, depression, fatigue and pain.
A protein expressed by astrocyte cells and microglia was measured by the PET scan. Astrocyte cells and microglia have been seen to play a role in neuroinflammation.
The researchers found that particular areas of the brain had inflammation levels that correlated with these symptoms to be higher in those with CFS/ME than in healthy people. The brain areas were the amygdala, cingulate cortex, hippocampus, midbrain, pons and thalamus.
The amygdala helps to process emotions, and is linked to pleasure and fear responses. Amygdala dysfunction can involve anxiety, autism, depression, phobias and PTSD.
The cingulate cortex plays a role in executive function, and regulates thinking and emotion.
The hippocampus is important for forming, organizing and storing memories. It plays an important role in creating new memories and linking senses and emotions to memory.
The midbrain is also known as the mesencephalon. It regulates response to sight, eye movement, body movement, pupil dilation and hearing.
The pons is a center for communication and coordination between the cerebral cortex and the medulla oblongata. It plays a part in transmitting messages between the spinal cord and the brain.
It is involved in arousal, regulation of autonomic function, transmitting sensory data between the cerebellum and the cerebrum. It also plays a role in sleep.
The thalamus relays nerve impulses that hold sensory information to the brain. It decides which sensory messages to send on to the cerebral cortex.
Despite the small size of the study, the results indicated that a PET scan could be used as an objective diagnostic tool for CFS/ME. Ultimately new treatments might be created for this devastating condition.
This study was published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine. Data came from RIKEN, the biggest comprehensive research institution in Japan. It is known for research of high quality in many scientific disciplines.
Toward a clearer diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Sciencedaily.com. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
PET scan. NLM.NIH.gov. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
About RIKEN. Riken.jp/en. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
Amygdala. Sciencedaily.com. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
Anxious? Activate your anterior cingulate cortex with a little meditation. Sciencedaily.com. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
Hippocampus. About.com. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
Mesencephalon. About.com. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
Anatomy of the Brain - Pons. About.com. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
Thalamus. Sciencedaily.com. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
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Reviewed April 22, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN