Fibromyalgia is a symptom-based disorder that manifests itself as chronic pain. Its underlying causes are unknown.

The results of a new study compares brain activity in individuals with and without fibromyalgia and indicate that decreased connectivity between pain-related and sensorimotor brain areas could contribute to deficient pain regulation in fibromyalgia, according to an article published in Brain Connectivity.

In the new study by Pär Flodin and coauthors from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, they add on to previous findings from other fibromyalgia papers that used brain imaging and found abnormal neuronal activity in the brain associated with poor pain inhibition.

In their paper, the researchers report a pattern of "functional decoupling" between pain-related areas of the brain that process pain signals and other areas of the brain, such as those that control sensorimotor activity in fibromyalgia patients compared to healthy patients, in the absence of any external pain stimulus. As a result, normal pain perception may be impaired.

"Fibromyalgia is an understudied condition with an unknown cause that can only be diagnosed by its symptoms," says Christopher Pawela, PhD, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Brain Connectivity and Assistant Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin. "This study by Flodin et al is an important first step in the understanding of how the brain is involved in the widespread pain perception that is characteristic of the disorder."

Citation: 'Fibromyalgia Is Associated with Decreased Connectivity Between Pain- and Sensorimotor Brain Areas', Flodin Pär, Martinsen Sofia, Löfgren Monika, Bileviciute-Ljungar Indre, Kosek Eva, and Fransson Peter. Brain Connectivity. doi:10.1089/brain.2014.0274.