Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Multi-modal MRI Study

Inflammation is a normal part of the human body’s immune system, but chronic inflammation can be very debilitating to the patient and can even cause rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers. Although we know more about what parts of the body chronic inflammation can affect, it is unknown how chronic inflammation impacts the brain. 

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers examined whether higher levels of peripheral inflammation were associated with brain connectivity and structure in 54 rheumatoid arthritis patients using functional and structural MRI. Researchers also showed that there are higher levels of inflammation are associated with more positive connections between the inferior parietal lobule (IPL), medial prefrontal cortex, and multiple brain networks, as well as reduced IPL grey matter, and that these patterns of connectivity predicted fatigue, pain and cognitive dysfunction. Six months later at a second scan, some of the same patterns of connectivity were again associated with higher peripheral inflammation. 

“These regions may play a critical role in transducing peripheral inflammatory signals to the central changes seen in rheumatoid arthritis,” the researchers concluded. 

SOURCE: Nature Communications