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Fatigue. 2018;6(2):63-79. doi: 10.1080/21641846.2018.1453919. Epub 2018 Mar 20.

Task Related Cerebral Blood Flow Changes of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: An Arterial Spin Labeling Study.

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Department of Medicine, University of Florida.
Department of Clinical & Health Psychology, University of Florida.
Department of Physical Therapy, University of Missouri.
Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Florida.



One hallmark of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is task related worsening of fatigue. Global brain hypoperfusion, abnormal regional activation, and altered functional connectivity of brain areas associated with cognition and memory have been reported but remain controversial.


We enrolled 17 female participants fulfilling the CDC Criteria for ME/CFS and 16 matched healthy controls (HC). Using a 3T-Phillips Achieva MRI-scanner, pseudo-continuous arterial spin-labeling (pCASL), was used to study the dynamics of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) and their relationship to mental fatigue in ME/CFS patients and HC during a demanding cognitive task, i.e. modified Paced-Auditory-Serial-Addition-Testing (PASAT).


ME/CFS subjects reported more fatigue than HC at baseline (p < .01). Global brain perfusion of ME/CFS and HC subjects was similar at rest. The PASAT resulted in significantly increased fatigue in ME/CFS participants and HC. Although not different between groups, overall CBF significantly increased over the first 3 min of the PASAT and then decreased thereafter. Regional CBF (rCBF) changes were significantly different between groups during the post-task recovery period. Whereas improvement of fatigue of ME/CFS subjects was associated with decreased rCBF in both superior temporal gyri (STG), precuneus, and fusiform gyrus, it was associated with increased rCBF in the same areas in HC.


Our results suggest that ME/CFS is associated with normal global CBF at rest and during a strenuous task (PASAT); however rCBF of several brain regions associated with memory, goal-oriented attention, and visual function was differentially associated with recovery from fatigue in ME/CFS patients and HC.


Arterial Spin Labeling; Chronic Fatigue; Regional Cerebral Blood Flow

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