Brainstem volume changes in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and long COVID patients

The study “Brainstem Volume Changes in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Long COVID Patients” provides insightful findings on the neurological aspects of ME/CFS and long COVID.

Here’s a summary:

  1. Study Focus: The research compared brainstem volumes in patients with ME/CFS, long COVID, and healthy controls (HC). The study included 10 ME/CFS patients (diagnosed according to CCC or ICC criteria), 8 long COVID patients (WHO Delphi consensus), and 10 healthy controls.
  2. Methodology: Brainstem regions were analyzed using 3D T1-weighted MRI images, acquired with sub-millimeter isotropic resolution using a 7 Tesla ultra-high field strength MRI scanner.
  3. Key Findings:
    • Increased Brainstem Volume in ME/CFS and Long COVID: Compared to healthy controls, significantly larger volumes were found in the pons and the whole brainstem for ME/CFS patients and in the pons, superior cerebellar peduncle, and whole brainstem for long COVID patients.
    • No Significant Differences Between ME/CFS and Long COVID: The study did not find significant differences in brainstem volumes between ME/CFS and long COVID patients, suggesting similar brainstem involvement in both conditions.
    • Correlation with Symptoms:
      • In ME/CFS patients, there was a positive correlation between the pons and whole brainstem volumes with “pain” and a negative correlation between the midbrain and whole brainstem volumes with “breathing difficulty.”
      • In long COVID patients, a strong negative relationship was observed between midbrain volume and “breathing difficulty.”
  4. Implications: The study demonstrates abnormal brainstem volume in both ME/CFS and long COVID patients, consistent with their overlapping symptoms such as pain and breathing difficulties. This suggests that the brainstem may play a key role in the pathophysiology of these conditions.

This research contributes to the understanding of the neurological impacts of ME/CFS and long COVID, highlighting the significance of brainstem changes in these conditions.​

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