Increased grey matter volume and associated resting-state functional connectivity in chronic spontaneous urticaria: A structural and functional MRI study.

Affiliation

Wang Y(1), Gao D(2), Cui B(2), Yu B(2), Fang J(3), Wang Z(4), Tang R(5), Cao Z(5), Song W(6), Song P(7), Li S(8).
Author information:
(1)Department of Dermatology, Guang'anmen Hospital, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing 100053, China. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Department of Dermatology, Guang'anmen Hospital, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing 100053, China.
(3)Department of Radiology, Guang'anmen Hospital, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing 100053, China.
(4)School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100069, China.
(5)Department of Radiology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou 310006, Zhejiang, China.
(6)Department of Radiology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou 310006, Zhejiang, China. Electronic address: [Email]
(7)Department of Dermatology, Guang'anmen Hospital, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing 100053, China. Electronic address: [Email]
(8)Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA; Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02125, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Chronic itch is one of the most common irritating sensations, yet its mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Although some studies have revealed relationships between itching and brain function, the structural changes in the brain induced by chronic itching, such as those accompanying chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU), remain unclear. In this study, we aimed to explore the potential changes in brain structure and the associated functional circuitry in CSU patients to generate insights to aid chronic itch management. METHODS: Forty CSU patients and forty healthy controls (HCs) were recruited. Seven-day urticaria activity score (UAS7) values were collected to evaluate clinical symptoms. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and seed-based resting-state functional connectivity (rs-FC) analysis were used to assess structural changes in the brain and associated changes in functional circuitry. RESULTS: Compared with HCs, CSU patients had significantly increased grey matter (GM) volume in the right premotor cortex, left fusiform cortex, and cerebellum. UAS7 values were positively associated with GM volume in the left fusiform cortex. In CSU patients relative to HCs, the left fusiform cortex as extracted by VBM analysis demonstrated decreased functional connectivity with the right orbitofrontal cortex, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), premotor cortex, primary motor cortex (MI), and cerebellum and increased functional connectivity with the right posterior insular cortex, primary somatosensory cortex (SI), and secondary somatosensory cortex (SII). The left cerebellum as extracted from VBM analysis demonstrated decreased functional connectivity with the right supplementary motor area (SMA) and MI in CSU patients relative to HCs. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that patients suffering from chronic itching conditions, such as CSU, are likely to demonstrate altered GM volume in some brain regions. These changes may affect not only the sensorimotor area but also brain regions associated with cognitive function.