Brain images Diagnose Chronic LBP.
Imagine this, an insurance company orders a patient post MVA to have brain imaging (fMRI) to decide if he or she is malingering and just faking their pain …to prove that their LBP is not “real”. Sound like a sci-fi concept at the present but scientists seem to be one step closer to that vision.
Neuro-imaging studies have already shown that chronic LBP is associated with abnormal brain structure and function. In this specific study, the scientists extracted brain gray matter density from MRI scans of 47 patients with LBP and 47 healthy controls.
Based on just viewing brain images, the researchers were able to identify the brains belonging to patients with cLBP with 76% accuracy.
The areas of the brain analyzed for detecting LBP were the motor, somatosensory, and prefrontal cortices; all involved when we experience pain.
Other brain regions that provided clues that the brain belonged to an individual with LBP were the temporal lobe, amygdala, medial orbital gyrus, cerebellum, and the visual cortex which also appear to undergo changes when we are in pain for a long time.
Ethical questions: Is there the potential for abuse of this technology? Will insurance companies use this to deny claims? Does it matter that the accuracy is not 100%?
The perception of pain is such a subjective concept similar to jealousy, happiness and love. Can we one day scan a brain and see if a person is in love or if they are happy with their life?
Ung H et al Multivariate classification of structural MRI data detects chronic low back pain. Cereb Cortex. 2014 Apr;24(4):1037-44.