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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Cook 2017.

Neural consequences of post-exertion malaise in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

updated
Cook DB, Light AR, Light KC, Broderick G, Shields MR, Dougherty RJ, Meyer JD, VanRiper S, Stegner AJ, Ellingson LD, Vernon SD. Neural consequences of post-exertion malaise in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 May;62:87–99. PubMed #28216087.
Tags: fibromyalgia, chronic pain, pain problems

PainSci summary of Cook 2017?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for typical studies with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Brain study of the “neural consequences” of acute exercise in people who suffering from excessive post-exertion malaise (PEM). They claim to have found “objective evidence of the detrimental neurophysiological effects of PEM.”

They studied 15 female patients with either myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (which is problematic, as ME is a definite pathology, and CFS is a diagnosis of exclusion for fatigue that could have many possible causes). They also included 15 healthy women for comparison. Symptom data and brain functional brain images were collected a week before and a day after exercise. Unsurprisingly, “patients reported large symptom changes compared to controls.”

And their brain behaviour changed, too.

“Acute exercise exacerbated symptoms, impaired cognitive performance and affected brain function in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients.”

I am unsure just how much their brains were affected. Note that most of their results barely achieved statistical significance.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Post exertion malaise is one of the most debilitating aspects of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, yet the neurobiological consequences are largely unexplored. The objective of the study was to determine the neural consequences of acute exercise using functional brain imaging. Fifteen female Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients and 15 healthy female controls completed 30min of submaximal exercise (70% of peak heart rate) on a cycle ergometer. Symptom assessments (e.g. fatigue, pain, mood) and brain imaging data were collected one week prior to and 24h following exercise. Functional brain images were obtained during performance of: 1) a fatiguing cognitive task - the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task, 2) a non-fatiguing cognitive task - simple number recognition, and 3) a non-fatiguing motor task - finger tapping. Symptom and exercise data were analyzed using independent samples t-tests. Cognitive performance data were analyzed using mixed-model analysis of variance with repeated measures. Brain responses to fatiguing and non-fatiguing tasks were analyzed using linear mixed effects with cluster-wise (101-voxels) alpha of 0.05. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients reported large symptom changes compared to controls (effect size ≥0.8, p<0.05). Patients and controls had similar physiological responses to exercise (p>0.05). However, patients exercised at significantly lower Watts and reported greater exertion and leg muscle pain (p<0.05). For cognitive performance, a significant Group by Time interaction (p<0.05), demonstrated pre- to post-exercise improvements for controls and worsening for patients. Brain responses to finger tapping did not differ between groups at either time point. During number recognition, controls exhibited greater brain activity (p<0.05) in the posterior cingulate cortex, but only for the pre-exercise scan. For the Paced Serial Auditory Addition Task, there was a significant Group by Time interaction (p<0.05) with patients exhibiting increased brain activity from pre- to post-exercise compared to controls bilaterally for inferior and superior parietal and cingulate cortices. Changes in brain activity were significantly related to symptoms for patients (p<0.05). Acute exercise exacerbated symptoms, impaired cognitive performance and affected brain function in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients. These converging results, linking symptom exacerbation with brain function, provide objective evidence of the detrimental neurophysiological effects of post-exertion malaise.

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