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Brain Sci. 2012 Sep 1;2(3):319-31. doi: 10.3390/brainsci2030319.

Neurochemical analysis of primary motor cortex in chronic low back pain.

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Department of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA.


The involvement of the primary motor cortex (M1) in chronic low back pain (LBP) is a relatively new concept. Decreased M1 excitability and an analgesic effect after M1 stimulation have been recently reported. However, the neurochemical changes underlying these functional M1 changes are unknown. The current study investigated whether neurochemicals specific to neurons and glial cells in both right and left M1 are altered. N-Acetylaspartate (NAA) and myo-inositol (mI) were measured with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in 19 subjects with chronic LBP and 14 healthy controls. We also examined correlations among neurochemicals within and between M1 and relationships between neurochemical concentrations and clinical features of pain. Right M1 NAA was lower in subjects with LBP compared to controls (p = 0.008). Left M1 NAA and mI were not significantly different between LBP and control groups. Correlations between neurochemical concentrations across M1s were different between groups (p = 0.008). There were no significant correlations between M1 neurochemicals and pain characteristics. These findings provide preliminary evidence of neuronal depression and altered neuronalglial interactions across M1 in chronic LBP.


N-acetylaspartate; chronic low back pain; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; myo-inositol; primary motor cortex

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