Menstrual Cramps May Alter Brain Structure
According to a new study published in PAIN®
Philadelphia, PA, August 11, 2010 – Primary dysmenorrhea (PDM), or menstrual cramps, is the most common gynecological disorder in women of childbearing age. Lower abdominal pain starts with the onset of menstrual flow and this ongoing pain stimulus can cause alterations throughout the nervous system. In a study scheduled for publication in the September issue of PAIN, researchers report abnormal changes in the structure of the brain in PDM patients, whether or not they are in fact experiencing pain.
Lead investigator, Professor Jen-Chuen Hsieh, MD, PhD, Institute of Brain Science, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, commented, “Our results demonstrated that abnormal GM [gray matter] changes were present in PDM patients even in absence of pain. This shows that not only sustained pain but also cyclic occurring menstrual pain can result in longer-lasting central changes. Although the functional consequences remain to be established, these results indicate that the adolescent brain is vulnerable to menstrual pain. Longitudinal studies are needed to probe hormonal interaction, fast-changing adaptation (intra-menstrual cycle) and whether such changes are reversible or not.”
32 PDM patients and 32 age- and menstrual-cycle-matched controls participated in the study. MRI scans of each subject were obtained when the PDM patients were not experiencing pain, and maps of gray matter (GM) were created. Both the total GM volume and the GM volume of specific brain areas were determined for both PDM patients and controls.
In these anatomical maps, significant GM volume changes were observed in the PDM patients. Abnormal decreases were found in regions involved in pain transmission, higher level sensory processing, and affect regulation while increases were found in regions involved in pain modulation and in regulation of endocrine function.
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Note to Editors
The article is “Brain morphological changes associated with cyclic menstrual pain” by Cheng-Hao Tu, David M. Niddam, Hsiang-Tai Chao, Li-Fen Chen, Yong-Sheng Chen, Yu-Te Wu, Tzu-Chen Yeh, Jiing-Feng Lirng, and Jen-Chuen Hsieh. It appears in PAIN, Volume 150, Issue 3 (September 2010) published by Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.05.026
Full text of the article is available to journalists upon request. Contact Christine Rullo at 215-239--3709 or email@example.com for a copy. Journalists wishing to set up interviews with the authors should contact Dr. Jen-Chuen Hsieh via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by phone at +886 2 28757480 or +886 2 28267906.
PAIN, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain® (IASP), publishes 12 issues per year of original research on the nature, mechanisms, and treatment of pain. This peer-reviewed journal provides a forum for the dissemination of research in the basic and clinical sciences of multidisciplinary interest and is cited in Current Contents and MEDLINE. It is ranked 1st out of the 25 journals in the ISI Anesthesiology category according to the Journal Citation Reports 2010.
About the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP®)
Founded in 1973, IASP is the world's largest multidisciplinary organization focused specifically on pain research and treatment. It is the leading professional forum for science, practice, and education in the field of pain bringing together scientists, clinicians, health care providers, and policy makers to stimulate and support the study of pain and to translate that knowledge into improved pain relief worldwide. IASP currently has more than 7,000 members from 123 countries and in more than 80 chapters.
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