Disruption of periaqueductal grey-default mode network functional connectivity predicts persistent post-traumatic headache in mild traumatic brain injury.

Research paper by Xuan X Niu, Lijun L Bai, Yingxiang Y Sun, Shan S Wang, Jieli J Cao, Chuanzhu C Sun, Zhuonan Z Wang, Hui H Xu, Shuoqiu S Gan, Geng G Fan, Wenmin W Huang, Chenghui C Gu, Bo B Yin, Guanghui G Bai, Xiaoling X Xu, et al.

Indexed on: 17 Dec '18Published on: 17 Dec '18Published in: Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry


Post-traumatic headache (PTH) is one of the most frequent and persistent physical symptoms following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and develop in more than 50% of this population. This study aimed to investigate the periaqueductal grey (PAG)-seeded functional connectivity (FC) in patients with mTBI with acute post-traumatic headache (APTH) and further examine whether the FC can be used as a neural biomarker to identify patients developing chronic pain 3 months postinjury. 70 patients with mTBI underwent neuropsychological measurements and MRI scans within 7 days postinjury and 56 (80%) of patients were followed up at 3 months. 46 healthy controls completed the same protocol on recruitment to the study. PAG-seeded resting-state FC analysis was measured in 54 patients with mTBI with APTH, in comparison with 46 healthy volunteers. The mTBI+APTH group presented significantly reduced PAG-seeded FC within the default mode network (DMN), compared with healthy volunteers group. The connectivity strength can also predict patients' complaints on the impact of headache on their lives. Crucially, the initial FC strength between the PAG-right precuneus as well as the PAG-right inferior parietal lobule became the important predictor to identify patients with mTBI developing persistent PTH 3 months postinjury. Patients with mTBI+APTH exhibited significant PAG-related FC differences mainly within the DMN. These regions extended beyond traditional pain processing areas and may reflect the diminished top-down attention regulation of pain perception through antinociceptive descending modulation network. The disrupted PAG-DMN FC may be used as an early imaging biomarker to identify patients at risk of developing persistent PTH. © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2018. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.