An imaging study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators has identified differences in key brain structures of individuals whose physical or mental health has been most seriously impaired by a common, but poorly understood, condition called functional neurological disorder (FND). In their report published online on August 26, 2017 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (JNNP), the research team describes reductions in the size of a portion of the insula in FND patients with the most severe physical symptoms and relative volume increases in the amygdala among those most affected by mental health symptoms. The article is titled “Corticolimbic Structural Alterations Linked to Health Status and Trait Anxiety in Functional Neurological Disorder.” "The brain regions implicated in this structural neuroimaging study are areas involved in the integration of emotion processing, sensory-motor, and cognitive functions, which may help us understand why patients with functional neurological disorder exhibit such a mix of symptoms," says David Perez, MD, MMSc, of the MGH Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, the lead and corresponding author of the report. "While this is a treatable condition, many patients remain symptomatic for years, and the prognosis varies from patient to patient. Advancing our understanding of the pathophysiology of FND is the first step in beginning to develop better treatments."
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