Patients with chronic fatigue use additional areas of brain when using memory
Press release issued: 22 April 2013
Scientists studying the brain scans of chronic fatigue patients have found they use additional brain regions to do simple tasks requiring attention. This may explain the problems many sufferers have with memory. The findings are just one of several new studies being presented today [22 Apr] at the launch of a new UK-wide research body to advance understanding and treatment into this debilitating condition which affects over 600,000 people in the UK.
The UK CFS/ME Research Collaborative [UK CMRC] is a new initiative led by the country’s leading experts in the field to expand medical studies into this complex set of disorders by facilitating greater expertise and improved co-ordination of research activities.
Researchers at the launch will be discussing some of the key issues they are facing and the areas that are making progress. They will also be explaining some of their thoughts for future research and their latest preliminary findings. These include, why some patients experience significant pain that is unresponsive to pain killers; whether using a monoclonal antibody (Rituximab), which is highly successful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers and the profound fatigue experienced in patients with an immune liver disease known as primary biliary cirrhosis, could be used as a test experimental medicine approach in order to understand more about fatigue mechanisms; and the link between blood pressure problems and CFS patients.
Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of the UK CMRC and MRC Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, said: “For the first time the research community and funder in the UK have joined forces in this unique new collaboration to create a step change in the amount and quality of research into chronic fatigue and ME. By coming together in this way, the application of state-of-the-art research methodology to this complex group of conditions will greatly increase the chance of identifying pathways linked to disease causation and novel therapeutic targets. The key to success will be the engagement of scientists outside the field.”
Dr Esther Crawley, Reader in Child Health in the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, added: “CFS or ME can leave many people either housebound or confined to their bed for months or years, causing their lives to change drastically and continued employment to become impossible. We need to join forces with charities and funders to ensure we can best address the needs of patients suffering from this often life-changing condition which affects one to two per cent of adults and teenagers in Britain.”
Representatives from patient charities that support chronic fatigue and ME research will also be attending the event. These include Action for M.E, the Association of Young People with ME [AYME], the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Foundation, The ME Association and ME Research UK will be present at the event, as will some of the UK’s major research funders such as the Medical Research Council [MRC], the National Institute for Health Research [NIHR] and the Wellcome Trust.
Launch of UK CMRC
The launch of the UK CFS/ME Research Collaborative is being held on 22 April 2013 from 12 noon to 4.45 pm at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Rd, London, NW1 2BE.
About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a medially unexplained, disabling condition, characterised by post-exertional fatigue and malaise, accompanied by other symptoms, such as muscle pain, insomnia, and poor concentration. Some believe that myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a related condition, whereas others believe it is different. The clinical descriptions are similar, and studies show a large overlap. Whatever it is called, there is reasonable evidence that the condition is heterogeneous, with chronic physical and mental fatigue and fatigability as the common factors. Most studies find that there are between three and five sub-groups that differ from each other. Since it is hard to define properly, it is equally difficult to be certain about how common it is. Most studies suggest that between 0.5 to 2.5 per cent of the population suffer from the illness, depending on how it is defined. It is more common in females, and the peak age of onset is 35-45, although it may occur in both children and adolescents and the elderly. It is more common in ethnic minorities in the UK.
No certain cause has been established, which perhaps reflects its heterogeneous nature, but established immediate causes include certain infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). (10-13 per cent of patients with a primary EBV infection develop CFS six months after onset. Predisposing factors include female sex, functional somatic syndromes, and prior mood disorders. For treatment purposes, important maintaining factors include comorbid mood disorders, beliefs about causation, and either pervasive inactivity or swinging from inactivity to over-activity (boom and bust pattern of behaviour).