CRPS is not associated with altered sensorimotor cortex GABA or glutamate
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© 2020 Lee et al. Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a debilitating chronic pain disorder typically in the upper or lower limbs. While CRPS usually develops from a peripheral event, it is likely maintained by CNS changes. Indeed, CRPS is reported to be associated with sensorimotor cortex changes, or functional “reorganization,” as well as deficits such as poor tactile acuity. While the mechanisms underpinning cortical reorganization in CRPS are unknown, some have hypothesized that it involves disinhibition (i.e., a reduction in GABA activity). In this study, we addressed this hypothesis by using edited magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine sensorimotor GABA and glutamate concentrations in 16 humans with CRPS and 30 matched control subjects and the relationship of these concentrations with tactile acuity. We found that individuals with upper limb CRPS displayed reduced tactile acuity in the painful hand, compared with the nonpainful hand and pain-free control subjects. Despite this acuity deficit, CRPS was not associated with altered GABA or glutamate concentrations within the sensorimotor cortex on either the side that represents the affected or unaffected hand. Furthermore, there was no significant relationship between sensorimotor GABA or glutamate concentrations and tactile acuity in CRPS subjects or control subjects. Although our sample was small, these data suggest that CRPS is not associated with altered total sensorimotor GABA or glutamate concentrations. While these results are at odds with the sensorimotor cortex disinhibition hypothesis, it is possible that GABAergic mechanisms other than total GABA concentration may contribute to such disinhibition.
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