Distinct thalamocortical network dynamics are associated with the pathophysiology of chronic low back pain

Yiheng Tu, Zening Fu, Cuiping Mao, Maryam Falahpour, Randy L. Gollub, Joel Park, Georgia Wilson, Vitaly Napadow, Jessica Gerber, Suk Tak Chan, Robert R. Edwards, Ted J. Kaptchuk, Thomas Liu, Vince Calhoun, Bruce Rosen, Jian Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Thalamocortical dysrhythmia is a key pathology of chronic neuropathic pain, but few studies have investigated thalamocortical networks in chronic low back pain (cLBP) given its non-specific etiology and complexity. Using fMRI, we propose an analytical pipeline to identify abnormal thalamocortical network dynamics in cLBP patients and validate the findings in two independent cohorts. We first identify two reoccurring dynamic connectivity states and their associations with chronic and temporary pain. Further analyses show that cLBP patients have abnormal connectivity between the ventral lateral/posterolateral nucleus (VL/VPL) and postcentral gyrus (PoCG) and between the dorsal/ventral medial nucleus and insula in the less frequent connectivity state, and temporary pain exacerbation alters connectivity between the VL/VPL and PoCG and the default mode network in the more frequent connectivity state. These results extend current findings on thalamocortical dysfunction and dysrhythmia in chronic pain and demonstrate that cLBP pathophysiology and clinical pain intensity are associated with distinct thalamocortical network dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3948
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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