Discussion in 'Latest ME/CFS Research' started by RogerBlack, Jan 19, 2017.
Sounds like positive news for those of us without any pain.
There's lots of talk about Grey matter volume (GMV) in the neuroscience literature these days. Lots of scary studies about how playing too many computer games will reduce your GMV and conversely, how CBT/mindfulnes or whatever will increase it.
Grey matter volume - it sounds so permanent. But if you measure a single person's GMV in any area, it will very likely change from Time A to Time B. Whatever that person does. The larger and more systematically a person changes what they read/hear/see/feel, what activities they do, etc., the more GMV will change. Some regions might show an increase, others a decrease. This doesn't really mean anything. It just means there's been a change in the usage of different pathways.
GMV (at least when measured across time in a single person) is dynamic and constantly changing. This best way to think of this is that every experience alters our brain ever so slightly, and GMV is no exception.
People in pain show some GMV reductions in regions that might be involved in pain perception (even that part's not certain). Its totally unsurprising that there are some changes - the onset of chronic pain is a big change in a person's life, and of course its going to affect your brain. Pain changes a lot of other things too besides the pain experience- it can interfere with your concentration, limit your activity levels. Also, to adapt to it, you might also subtly change your mental activity and focus. Any of these things could decrease your GMV in a particular region. Some regions could even show increased GMV (study authors usually play these down because they are hard to explain).
And in fact, what you do see is that when the pain is relieved, the changes are reversed too. Here's a study that demonstrates exactly this.
So bottom line? Grey matter volume studies sound really profound, like they're going to give us all the answers we've been looking for. But until we understand more about what it is we are measuring, they are really not telling us a whole lot.
Achtung/Beware: Beware of GMV studies that are designed to "prove" a strongly held ideology - for example, ones that demonstrate CBT or mindfulness can increase your GMV, or that playing computer games or using your phone too much will reduce it. Chances are the researchers have carefully cherry picked the areas of GMV gain/loss, and probably brushed over any regions where the effects went in the opposite direction.
Of taxi driver candidates, trying to learn a massive amount of geography
The brain is quite plastic, as above, and assumptions that changes are 'permanent' may often be unjustified.
For example, it seems quite obvious that if you've been (for example) a taxi driver, and get CFS, because you're not practicing that skill any more, the brain resources used slowly get repurposed.
You will of course need to re-learn some of the lost skill, more and more as you're away from it for longer, if you are 'cured'.
Annoyingly, I can't find any research on teh above paper testing people who have passed the knowledge, but been not driving taxis for x years.
"here is some research that lends credence to the effect of reduced physical activity on the amount of gray matter in the brain. However, interestingly, in this study illness duration was not found to affect the gray matter decrease in the CFS subjects. This would, obviously, suggest that the reduction of gray matter in the CFS subjects was not due to reduced physical activity."
Or that it happened quite rapidly on illness onset due to reduced physical activity.
There seems to be a bias along the lines of: We found an association between X and Z, Z is bad therefore X is bad. But X might be a positive/beneficial adaptation to Z - yet this seems to be rarely considered in the discussion of such findings.
I don't follow what you are saying?
Physical activity doesn't necessarily correlate with illness duration.
Neither could it be a marker for deconditioning - if you stop exercising to high intensity, your body adjusts (cardiovascular deconditioning) to your new level of activity over a period of months. (and cardiovascular deconditioning is only really a problem when you try to exercise at high intensity - over 80% of maximum heart rate)
Yea, there's a whole cultural overlay going on. CBT/mindfulness = good (a few decades ago, it might have been the virtues of labour and productivity). Using new technology = bad (in the 60s and 70s, it was TV that was rotting our kids' brains, and before that, pop music, and earlier, jazz and comic books).
I blame the internet.
Obviously the key to good health is isolation, ignorance, and a stay in your local re-education camp until your unsound thinking is corrected.
Internet forums are rotting your brain!
I'd say beware.
That's not what I am saying it come's from the link I posted. I think it is to argue against the suggestion that was put forward that the reduction was due to lack of physical activity ie along the same lines as deconditioning.
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