June 18, 2024
Brain Network Condition Identified

New Brain Network Condition Identified as Potential Predictor of Painful Vaso-occlusive Crises in Sickle Cell Disease Patients

Indiana University School of Medicine researchers have discovered a novel brain network condition called explosive synchronization that could be linked to painful vaso-occlusive crises in patients with sickle cell disease. This finding could lead to earlier prediction and intervention for these acute painful episodes.

Sickle cell disease is a rare genetic disorder characterized by the production of abnormally shaped red blood cells. These sickle-shaped cells die prematurely, leading to a constant shortage of red blood cells and potential complications, including severe pain.

To investigate the brain mechanisms of pain in sickle cell disease patients, researchers analyzed brain electroencephalogram (EEG) data and identified explosive synchronization as a significant brain network condition. They found a strong correlation between pain intensity and the strength of explosive synchronization. These findings were published in Scientific Reports.

“Our research could potentially guide clinical diagnosis and pain management in sickle cell disease patients,” said Ying Wang, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesia, investigator at the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, and principal investigator of the study. “Early identification of an upcoming vaso-occlusive crisis might allow for treatment to be initiated before the crisis occurs.”

The team is now working on developing a portable, user-friendly EEG device for clinicians and patients. They also aim to establish a multi-dimensional brain network model to improve the ability to predict future pain crises.

“Our goal is to identify the temporal changes of the brain hypersensitivity network associated with each pain crisis event,” Wang said. “We are also studying the effect of pain relief treatments, such as acupuncture, on the strength of explosive synchronization and brain network hypersensitivity.”

Co-authors of the study include Ziyue Liu and Andrew O’Brien of Indiana University; Pangyu Joo, Minkyung Kim, Uncheol Lee, Steven Harte of the University of Michigan; Richard Harris of the University of Michigan and University of California at Irvine; and Brianna Kish, Vidhya Vijayakrishnan Nair, and Yunjie Tong of Purdue University.

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