abnormal brainstem function may be responsible for irritable bowel syndrome


According to a recent study published in the January 9th issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, abnormal brainstem function may be responsible for irritable bowel syndrome. The purpose of the study was to seek out abnormal neurological responses for anticipated pain. According to Steven Berman, M.D., of UCLA, when patients with irritable bowel syndrome anticipated abdominal pain that was not dangerous via stimuli they showed increased activity in areas of the brain that dictate sensation of pain and emotional arousal. One of the most important symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is anxiety about the condition, which can increase sensation of physical symptoms. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

The investigators studied 14 women with irritable bowel syndrome and 12 healthy women. Participants underwent a balloon-driven rectal distention procedure that causes no tissue damage but creates sensations of pressure. The procedure included a light-based visual cue to signal the start. Distentions of 25 and 45 mm Hg were induced, as was a sham distention of 5 mm Hg.

Questionnaires administered just prior to the procedure confirmed that the irritable bowel syndrome patients were more anxious, angry, and stressful beforehand than the healthy individuals. The patients had mean scores of 6.0 for stress, 6.0 for anxiety, and 5.8 for anger at baseline. Corresponding values for controls were 3.2 (P<0.0001), 2.5 (P<0.0001) and 2.4 (P=0.0002).

During the procedure, activity in participants’ insula, amygdala, and brainstem was monitored with functional MRI.

Click here to read the entire article from Medpage Today

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.
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