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Increased Basal Ganglia Gray Matter in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Patients have smaller intracranial volume with no differences in cortical gray matter

MONDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have increased gray matter in the basal ganglia, especially in the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus, but not changes in the cortical gray matter, according to a study published online Sept. 8 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Karolina Wartolowska, M.D., D.Phil., from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues investigated whether patients with RA have structural changes in the cortical and subcortical gray matter of their brains. High-resolution structural magnetic resonance imaging data for 31 patients with RA and 25 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were compared by two surface-based style morphometry analyses (FreeSurfer and FIRST) and a voxel-based style analysis.

The investigators found that patients with RA had increased gray matter content in the basal ganglia, primarily in the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus. No differences were found in the cortical gray matter. The intracranial volume was smaller in patients with RA.

"Our results suggest that RA is associated with changes in the subcortical gray matter rather than with cortical gray matter atrophy. Since the basal ganglia play an important role in motor control, as well as in pain processing and in modulating behavior in response to aversive stimuli, we suggest that these changes may result from altered motor control or prolonged pain processing," the authors write.

The study was partially funded by GlaxoSmithKline.

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