Chronic fatigue syndrome remains poorly understood despite decades of scientific study. Although researchers estimate that more than 1 million Americans are affected by this condition, the cause for chronic fatigue syndrome, a definitive way to diagnose it, and even its very existence remain in question. In a new study, researchers have found differing brain responses in people with this condition compared to healthy controls, suggesting an association between a biologic functional response and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The findings show that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have decreased activation of an area of the brain known as the basal ganglia in response to reward. Additionally, the extent of this lowered activation was associated with each patient’s measured level of fatigue. The basal ganglia are at the base of the brain and are associated with a variety of functions, including motor activity and motivation. Diseases affecting basal ganglia are often associated with fatigue. These results shed more light on this mysterious condition, information that researchers hope may eventually lead to better treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome.
The study was conducted by Elizabeth R. Unger, James F. Jones, and Hao Tian of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Andrew H. Miller and Daniel F. Drake of Emory University School of Medicine; and Giuseppe Pagnoni of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. An abstract of their study entitled “Decreased Basal Ganglia Activation in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Subjects Is Associated with Increased Fatigue” was discussed at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012.