Fibromyalgia affects sensory perception and blunts touch perception. The findings of the study reveal that there is abnormal processing of signals in C-type skin nerves (associated with the perception of touch) in fibromyalgia.
The researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health looked into whether fibromyalgia patients rated the perception of touch differently than healthy individuals. The study also looked into the opioid signaling in fibromyalgia.
Previous research has found that fibromyalgia sufferers have a smaller count of opioid receptors in the brain, which aid in pain signaling and mediate feelings of reward to natural behaviors.
The study enrolled 24 fibromyalgia patients and 28 healthy controls. The researchers used slow or fast moving brushes along the participants’ forearms to explore the effects of perception. Participants were asked to rate pleasure and intensity of the strokes.
Normal controls rated slow brush strokes as more pleasurable but less intense. This is an expected result, as the C-type nerves are better activated by a slow touch. Fibromyalgia patients, on the other hand, rated both fast and slow brush strokes as equally pleasurable and intense.
Then, participants received either a drug that blocks opioid receptors or the placebo. Under the influence of the drug, the healthy controls rated both slow and fast touch to be slightly more pleasurable, but the fibromyalgia patients did not notice any change, but rated both fast and slow brush strokes as less intense compared to those individuals on a placebo.
The results indicate the fibromyalgia patients have abnormal touch processing and altered opioid signaling. Additional research is required to determine if these findings may help uncover the underlying cause of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia and its impact on sensory perception
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, 31 fibromyalgia patients and healthy controls were exposed to arbitrary sound and pressure stimuli.
Fibromyalgia patients demonstrated a heightened perception of auditory tones as well as oversensitive response to pressure stimuli, suggesting that the cause may be an identical physiological mechanism. When asked to describe intensity of the auditory sounds, the fibromyalgia patients consistently perceived the sounds to be more intense, compared to the controls.
In researchers’ view, the findings reveal a deficit in sensory processing in fibromyalgia patients. Additional research is required to better understand the exact mechanism behind the malfunctioning reaction to sound and touch in fibromyalgia patients.
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