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J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2013 Jun;8(3):576-93. doi: 10.1007/s11481-013-9460-x. Epub 2013 May 12.

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy to assess neuroinflammation and neuropathic pain.

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Department of Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Neuroscience and Magnetic Resonance Research Program, The Queen's Medical Center, 1356 Lusitana Street, UH Tower 7th Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.


Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H MRS) has been applied to numerous clinical studies, especially for neurological disorders. This technique can non-invasively evaluate brain metabolites and neurochemicals in selected brain regions and is particularly useful for assessing neuroinflammatory disorders. Neurometabolites assessed with MRS include the neuronal markers N-acetylaspartate (NAA) and glutamate (Glu), as well as the glial marker myo-inositol (MI). Therefore, the concentrations of these metabolites typically correspond to disease severity and often correlate well with clinical variables in the various brain disorders. Neuroinflammation with activated astrocytes and microglia in brain disorders are often associated with elevated MI, and to a lesser extent elevated total creatine (tCr) and choline containing compounds (Cho), which are found in higher concentrations in glia than neurons, while neuronal injury is indicated by lower than normal levels of NAA and Glu. This review summarizes the neurometabolite abnormalities found in MRS studies performed in patients with neuroinflammatory disorders or neuropathic pain, which also may be associated with neuroinflammation. These brain disorders include multiple sclerosis, neuroviral infections (including Human Immunodeficiency virus and Hepatitis C), degenerative brain disorders (including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease), stimulant abuse (including methamphetamine and cocaine) as well as several chronic pain syndromes.

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