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Primary Dysmenorrhea May Change Brain Structure

Women experience abnormal gray matter volume changes regardless of whether they're having pain

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Women with primary dysmenorrhea (PDM) have abnormal changes in brain gray matter volume regardless of whether they are experiencing pain, according to a study in the September issue of PAIN.

Cheng-Hao Tu, of the National Yang-Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan, and colleagues evaluated total and regional gray matter increases and decreases in 32 PDM patients and 32 healthy age- and menstrual cycle-matched controls using an optimized voxel-based morphometry approach.

The investigators found abnormal increases in regions of the brain involved in pain modulation and in regulation of endocrine function, with abnormal decreases found in regions of the brain involved in pain transmission, higher level sensory processing, and affected regulation. In addition, gray matter changes in regions involved in generating negative affect and in top-down pain modulation were associated with severity of experienced PDM pain. The researchers concluded that abnormal changes in gray matter volume occurred in PDM patients with or without pain.

"These changes may underpin a combination of impaired pain inhibition, increased pain facilitation and increased affect. Our findings highlight that longer lasting central changes may occur not only in sustained chronic pain conditions but also in cyclic occurring pain conditions," the authors write.

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