Correlation between nerve atrophy, brain grey matter volume and pain severity in patients with primary trigeminal neuralgia

Yuan Wang, Qian Yang, Dongyuan Cao, David Seminowicz, Bethany Remeniuk, Lin Gao, Ming Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Recent neuroimaging studies have reported grey matter alterations in primary trigeminal neuralgia patients. However, few studies have focused on quantitative measurements of trigeminal nerves and the interaction between trigeminal nerve volume and brain morphology, particularly grey matter volume. In this study, we investigated the link between trigeminal nerves and grey matter volume changes in primary trigeminal neuralgia patients compared to healthy controls. Moreover, we explored the association of structure of trigeminal nerves and grey matter to collected pain clinical variables. Methods: Eighty participants (40 patients and 40 controls) were recruited for the study. All participants underwent MRI sessions and clinical pain assessment. Trigeminal nerve volume and whole brain grey matter volume were evaluated using quantitative imaging techniques. Sensory and affective pain rating indices were assessed using the visual analog scale and short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire. Mediation analysis was conducted to investigate the relationship between clinical pain variables and volumetric changes in trigeminal nerves and grey matter. Results: Decreased trigeminal nerve volume was detected in primary trigeminal neuralgia patients compared to controls. Additionally, reduced grey matter volume was found in several regions associated with pain in primary trigeminal neuralgia subjects, including the insula, secondary somatosensory cortex, hippocampus, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, and several areas of the temporal lobe. Mediation analysis revealed that decreased trigeminal nerve volume drove grey matter volume abnormality of the left insula, and further led to increased pain ratings. Conclusion: This study showed a predominantly direct effect of trigeminal nerve atrophy on clinical pain variables in primary trigeminal neuralgia patients, providing new insight into the pathophysiology of the disease. Trial registration: ID: NCT02713646.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-525
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Primary trigeminal neuralgia
  • pain ratings
  • trigeminal nerve
  • voxel-based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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