Effects of Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) on Brain Connectivity Supporting Catastrophizing in Fibromyalgia

Asimina Lazaridou, Jieun Kim, Christine M. Cahalan, Marco L. Loggia, Olivia Franceschelli, Chantal Berna, Peter Schur, Vitaly Napadow, Robert R. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE(S):: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic, common pain disorder characterized by hyperalgesia. A key mechanism by which Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) fosters improvement in pain outcomes is via reductions in hyperalgesia and pain-related catastrophizing, a dysfunctional set of cognitive-emotional processes. However, the neural underpinnings of these CBT effects are unclear. Our aim was to assess CBT’s effects on the brain circuitry underlying hyperalgesia in FM patients, and to explore the role of treatment-associated reduction in catastrophizing as a contributor to normalization of pain-relevant brain circuitry and clinical improvement. METHODS:: Sixteen high-catastrophizing FM patients were enrolled in the study and randomized to 4 weeks of individual treatment with either CBT or a Fibromyalgia Education (control) condition. Resting state fMRI (rs-fMRI) scans evaluated functional connectivity between key pain-processing brain regions at baseline and post-treatment. Clinical outcomes were assessed at baseline, post-treatment and 6-month follow-up. RESULTS:: Catastrophizing correlated with increased resting state functional connectivity between S1 and anterior insula. The CBT group showed larger reductions (compared to the Education group) in catastrophizing at post-treatment (P<0.05), and CBT produced significant reductions in both pain and catastrophizing at the 6-month follow-up (P<0.05). Patients in the CBT group also showed reduced resting state connectivity between S1 and anterior/medial insula at post-treatment; these reductions in resting state connectivity were associated with concurrent treatment-related reductions in catastrophizing. DISCUSSION:: These results add to the growing support for the clinically important associations between S1-insula connectivity, clinical pain, and catastrophizing, and suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy may, in part via reductions in catastrophizing, help to normalize pain-related brain responses in FM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
StateAccepted/In press - Aug 11 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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