Amber Alert

Neurotransmitter Glutamate Tied to Fibromyalgia Pain

Another neurotransmitter is joining the ranks of those that are not quite right in people with fibromyalgia (FMS) - but while serotonin and norepinephrine levels are too low, glutamate is too high.

In a recently published study, researchers at the University of Michigan Health Systems have discovered that pain goes down when they reduce levels of glutamate in an area of the brain. Led by well-known FMS researcher Daniel Clauw, MD, they say this information could be useful for finding new medications and monitoring their effectiveness.

When glutamate moves through your brain, it makes cells more active. After researchers discovered people with fibromyalgia had a lot of extra activity in the area of the brain called the insula, they theorized that glutamate could be involved.

To test the theory, they used a brain-imaging test called proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-MRS) before and after acupuncture or "sham" acupuncture, because acupuncture is proven effective at inactivating areas of the brain.

After four weeks of treatment, both pain and glutamate levels in the insula were lower, suggesting glutamate plays a part in FMS and could be used as a biological indication of how severe it is. This was a small study, so the research team is calling for more research to verify the role of glutamate.

Think how it would change things to have a biological test showing how severe your FMS is! Do you think it would help people get disability? Would it help you convince your friends and family that you're really sick? Will this discovery lead to new drugs? Does this make you think more seriously about acupuncture?

Adapted from Adrienne Dellwo,

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