Indexed on: 23 Aug '12Published on: 23 Aug '12Published in: The Cerebellum
There is evidence to support that the cerebellum contributes to the neural processing of both emotions and painful stimuli. This could be particularly relevant in conditions associated with chronic abdominal pain, such as the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which are often also characterized by affective disturbances. We aimed to test the hypothesis that in IBS, symptoms of anxiety and depression modulate brain activation during visceral stimulation within the cerebellum. We reanalyzed a previous data set from N = 15 female IBS patients and N = 12 healthy women with a specific focus on the cerebellum using advanced normalization methods. Rectal distension-induced brain activation was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging using non-painful and painful rectal distensions. Symptoms of anxiety and depression, assessed with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale, were correlated with cerebellar activation within IBS patients. Within IBS, depression scores were associated with non-painful distension-induced activation in the right cerebellum primarily in Crus II and lobule VIIIb, and additionally in Crus I. Depression scores were also associated with painful distension-induced activation predominantly in vermal lobule V with some extension to the intermediate cerebellum. Anxiety scores correlated significantly with non-painful induced activation in Crus II. Symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are frequently found in chronic pain conditions like IBS, modulate activation during visceral sensory signals not only in cortical and subcortical brain areas but also in the cerebellum.