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Menstrual cramps may alter brain structure

Date:
August 11, 2010
Source:
Elsevier Health Sciences
Summary:
Primary dysmenorrheal, or menstrual cramps, is the most common gynecological disorder in women of childbearing age. Lower abdominal pain starts with the onset of menstrual flow and this ongoing pain stimulus can cause alterations throughout the nervous system. In a new study, researchers report abnormal changes in the structure of the brain in PDM patients, whether or not they are in fact experiencing pain.
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Primary dysmenorrhea (PDM), or menstrual cramps, is the most common gynecological disorder in women of childbearing age. Lower abdominal pain starts with the onset of menstrual flow and this ongoing pain stimulus can cause alterations throughout the nervous system.

In a study scheduled for publication in the September issue of the journal Pain, researchers report abnormal changes in the structure of the brain in PDM patients, whether or not they are in fact experiencing pain.

Lead investigator, Professor Jen-Chuen Hsieh, MD, PhD, Institute of Brain Science, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, commented, "Our results demonstrated that abnormal GM [gray matter] changes were present in PDM patients even in absence of pain. This shows that not only sustained pain but also cyclic occurring menstrual pain can result in longer-lasting central changes. Although the functional consequences remain to be established, these results indicate that the adolescent brain is vulnerable to menstrual pain. Longitudinal studies are needed to probe hormonal interaction, fast-changing adaptation (intra-menstrual cycle) and whether such changes are reversible or not."

32 PDM patients and 32 age- and menstrual-cycle-matched controls participated in the study. MRI scans of each subject were obtained when the PDM patients were not experiencing pain, and maps of gray matter (GM) were created. Both the total GM volume and the GM volume of specific brain areas were determined for both PDM patients and controls.

In these anatomical maps, significant GM volume changes were observed in the PDM patients. Abnormal decreases were found in regions involved in pain transmission, higher level sensory processing, and affect regulation while increases were found in regions involved in pain modulation and in regulation of endocrine function.


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The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cheng-Hao Tu, David M. Niddam, Hsiang-Tai Chao, Li-Fen Chen, Yong-Sheng Chen, Yu-Te Wu, Tzu-Chen Yeh, Jiing-Feng Lirng, and Jen-Chuen Hsieh. Brain morphological changes associated with cyclic menstrual pain. Pain, 2010; 150 (3): 462 DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.05.026

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Elsevier Health Sciences. "Menstrual cramps may alter brain structure." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100811085408.htm>.
Elsevier Health Sciences. (2010, August 11). Menstrual cramps may alter brain structure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100811085408.htm
Elsevier Health Sciences. "Menstrual cramps may alter brain structure." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100811085408.htm (accessed May 25, 2015).

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