There has been research to suggest that fibromyalgia is a neuro-inflammation condition… what is causing that… not known.  In the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity there was research showing widespread inflammation in the brain of people with fibromyalgia done by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers (with a team at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden) Widespread Inflammation in Brains of Those with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia: Inflammation in the brain

“We don’t have good treatment options for fibromyalgia, so identifying a potential treatment target could lead to the development of innovative, more effective therapies,” says Marco Loggia, PhD, of the MGH-based Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, co-senior author of the report. “And finding objective neurochemical changes in the brains of patients with fibromyalgia should help reduce the persistent stigma that many patients face, often being told their symptoms are imaginary and there’s nothing really wrong with them.” Widespread Inflammation in Brains of Those with Fibromyalgia

2015 study (Loggia’s team)

MR/PET scans to document neuroinflammation (and activation of glial cells) in brains of people with back pain. Speculating that similar glial activation could be seen in fibromyalgia patients his team did PET radiopharmaceutical “which binds to the translocator protein (TSPO) that is overexpressed by activated glial cells”. The study involved 20 fibromyalgia patients and 14 controls.

Another study at the same time (Kosek’s team at Karolinska)

Had 11 FM patients and 11 controls to do a similar study with TSPO-binding PET tracer. “Since that radiopharmaceutical binds to two types of glial cells – microglia and astrocytes – they also imaged 11 patients, 6 who had the TSPO imaging and 5 others, and another 11 controls with a PET tracer that is thought to bind preferentially to astrocytes and not to microglia.”

When they became aware of each other’s research they combined their data into one study.


What they found was glial activation in several regions of the brains of fibromyalgia patients that was significantly greater than the control groups. “Compared to the MGH team’s chronic back pain study, TSPO elevations were more widespread throughout the brain, which Loggia indicates corresponds to the more complex symptom patterns of fibromyalgia.” TSPO levels in the area of the brain called the cingulate gyrus (the area for emotional processing and where neuroinflammation has been seen in chronic fatigue syndrome) corresponds to people with reported fatigue levels. “The Karolinska team’s studies with the astrocyte-binding tracer found little difference between patients and controls, suggesting that microglia were primarily responsible for the increased neuro-inflammation in fibromyalgia patients.”

“The activation of glial cells we observed in our studies releases inflammatory mediators that are thought to sensitize pain pathways and contribute to symptoms such as fatigue,” says Loggia, an assistant professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School. “The ability to join forces with our colleagues at Karolinska was fantastic, because combining our data and seeing similar results at both sites gives confidence to the reliability of our results.” Widespread Inflammation in Brains of Those with Fibromyalgia


In conclusion, our work shows that brain levels of the glial marker, TSPO, as measured using [11C]PBR28 PET imaging, are elevated in the cortex of FM patients relative to healthy controls. Furthermore, we found an association between the TSPO PET signal and fatigue, a predominant FM symptom. The lack of elevated [11C]-L-deprenyl-D2 binding in FM may be viewed as support of an involvement of microglial, rather than astrocytic, activation. Future studies will need to test whether glial modulation may be a viable therapeutic strategy for FM. Study

Check out the study in full

See more fibromyalgia research

Cannabis and fibromyalgia study

Fibromyalgia and stress in women

Fibromyalgia: Pain perception and recollection

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16 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia: Inflammation in the brain

  1. Very interesting. In some small trials the antibiotics minocycline and d-cycloserine have shown some benefit in depression, and it was thought this was because they reduce microglial activation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I follow a great research website called Health Rising. He researches and summarizes much info on FMS and Chronic Fatigue/ME issues. After a bunch of reading on this very topic, I started low dose Naltrexone about a year ago, approved by and prescribed by my pain management doc. It is a powerful brain anti-inflammatory. I use only 3 mg per day, and there are several FB groups that are very educational. While I have not experienced tremendous results, I do feel it helps. My husband, a fellow chronic pain patient, also takes it and feels it benefits him. I think they are on to something with this research. Thanks for covering it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yo! Thank you so much for sharing this study. Just got away from a meditation program that was trying to think away all kinds of pain, and that that was the only way. The studies have to keep going but here we are, seeing some real physical work finally. Glad to see the advancement and the connections, to back pain and cfs.

    Liked by 1 person

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