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Psychosom Med. 2015 Sep;77(7):721-32. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000217.

Affective Modulation of Brain and Autonomic Responses in Patients With Fibromyalgia.

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From the Research Institute on Health Sciences (IUNICS) and Department of Psychology (Rosselló, Montoya), University of Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Department of Personality (Muñoz), University of Granada, Granada, Spain; and Institute of Applied Psychology (Duschek), University for Health Sciences Medical Informatics and Technology (UMIT), Hall in Tyrol, Austria.



Emotional dysregulation and abnormal processing of affective information are thought to play a significant role for the maintenance of pain in fibromyalgia. The motivational priming hypothesis states that negative emotions could increase pain via activation of the aversive system, thus leading to an affective modulation of defensive reflexes. Nevertheless, little is known about peripheral and central correlates of affective reflex modulation in fibromyalgia.


Thirty patients with fibromyalgia and 30 healthy individuals were asked to view three video clips from a self-perspective to induce specific mood states. Video clips consisted of the same virtual walk through different locations of a park under three affective environments (unpleasant, pleasant, and neutral). Startle eyeblink reflex and heart rate response elicited by abrupt startle noises, as well as heart rate variability and electroencephalography (EEG) oscillations were recorded when participants were passively viewing the virtual environments.


Patients with fibromyalgia rated all environments as more negative and arousing than did healthy controls (p values < .05). Nevertheless, startle eyeblink reflex and heart rate response were lower in patients with fibromyalgia than in healthy controls when viewing all three environments (p values < .05). Patients with fibromyalgia also displayed lower heart rate variability, as well as higher EEG power (2-22 Hz) during all environments than did healthy controls (p values < .05).


Patients with fibromyalgia were characterized by relevant deficits in affective modulation of startle and cardiac responses, heart rate variability, and EEG power spectra in response to sustained induction of affective states. These findings suggest an alteration of emotional and attentional aspects of information processing at subjective, autonomic, and central nervous system levels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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