Stanford Study Shows Link Between Fatigue and Abnormal Brain MRI Images

Abnormal brain MRI images and CFSCould there be a relationship between abnormal brain mri images and fatigue? Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found specific changes in the brains, particularly the white matter, of patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Compared to a normal person the CFS patients often showed abnormal brain MRI images. Below, we’ll discuss how this may correlate to adrenal fatigue syndrome.

Patients with CFS have dealt with a number of misunderstandings due to their condition, from people who think the affected person is a hypochondriac, to thinking they are just lazy. These findings are a first step to validating the experience of chronic fatigue.

CFS is difficult to diagnose definitively, making it difficult to determine just how widespread the condition is. It is defined as constant fatigue lasting six months or longer, and may be accompanied by pain in the joints and muscles, debilitating headaches, food intolerances and allergies, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, gastrointestinal distress, blood pressure abnormalities, irregular heart rhythms, and sensitivity to light, sound, and other stimuli. Many of these symptoms are also common with other conditions, but chronic fatigue can plague some sufferers for decades.

Not only could the results of this research make CFS easier to diagnose by providing a much needed diagnostic biomarker, researchers hope that it could shed some light on the underlying mechanisms of the condition.

Abnormal Brain MRI Images?

Lead author and assistant professor of radiology Dr. Michael Zeineh explains that the researchers used three separate advanced imaging systems. Through images obtained from each participant with these systems, they discovered at least three distinct differences between the CFS patients and healthy volunteers.

The researchers compared brain images from 15 chronic fatigue patients with 14 demographically similar healthy individuals who did not have a history of either fatigue or other symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers identify three key differences between the brains of chronic fatigue patients and those of the healthy individuals.

MRI images revealed that patients with CFS had less white matter in the brain overall than healthy patients. White matter consists myelinated axons, the cells responsible for carrying messages throughout the nervous system. Researchers weren’t entirely surprised by this finding, as CFS has long been thought to be caused by chronic inflammation, and inflammation is known to be harmful to white matter.

Where the first finding was all but expected, the second was completely unexpected. The researchers used diffusion tensor imaging, an imaging technique used to evaluate the quality of white matter. The researchers found a consistent abnormal brain MRI images in the portion of the right hemisphere that connects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This area is known as the right arcuate fasciculus and looked abnormal when compared to healthy individuals. To underscore the significance of this finding, the degree of abnormality was directly correlated to the severity of chronic fatigue symptoms.

Finally, the researchers noticed the gray matter in those areas of the brain connected by the right arcuate fasciculus were thicker in CFS patients than in the healthy volunteers. The correspondence between this finding and the abnormalities in white matter in this particular part of the brain suggest that it is unlikely that these two findings were coincidental.

As significant as these findings are, Zeineh says further study is needed to confirm the results. The scientists are planning to conduct a larger study in the future concerning these abnormal brain MRI images.

Dr. Lam’s Adrenal Fatigue Perspective on Brain Function:

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) both arise when the body is experiencing more stress than it can deal with through its stress response systems, and these overworked systems begin to exhibit dysfunction which gives rise to the negative symptoms of stress.

The body’s stress response can be described as a multitude of stress response circuits that together form the whole NeuroEndoMetabolic stress responseSM system. The brain, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, liver, adrenal glands and many more organs all tie into these circuits, making the body’s response to stress a truly systemic effort.

Brain fog, anxiety, depression and other neurological symptoms are commonly seen in many people suffering from both AFS and CFS, which makes sense since the brain and nervous systems play a significant role in stress response and are in turn affected by dysregulation of the stress response. What is significant and potentially alarming about this study is the fact that brain could be affected to such a degree that it begins to exhibit physical manifestations of abnormality.

In most cases, the neurological effects of stress will usually disappear once the stress is removed and the body has a chance to recover from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The findings put forth in the study are startling as they suggest there might be permanent consequences to brain physiology once the stress has been severe enough for long enough to cause one of these chronic conditions. Whatever the truth may be, however, the reduction of stress and adopting a low stress lifestyle is truly important for overall health.

Source: Stanford Medicine News Center October 2014

Abnormal brain MRI images and CFS