MR spectroscopy links brain changes, motor issues

With the help of MR spectroscopy, researchers have linked chemical changes in certain brain regions as a potential reason for unexplained motor deficiencies in a study published on 5 June in the online issue of Neurology.

The study compared 10 people with functional motor symptoms with 10 healthy controls. MR spectroscopy was used to view biochemical processes within the brain. In addition, subjects were given tests for depression, anxiety, quality of life, and alexithymia, a condition that prohibits the ability for people to identify and describe their own emotions.

MR spectroscopy revealed levels of glutamate and glutamine in the limbic areas of the brain that were approximately four times greater in subjects with functional motor symptoms, compared with the healthy controls. Outside of the limbic areas, glutamate and glutamine levels were normal, which indicates that the heightened readings are specific for these regions.

The researchers also found that a greater number of neurochemical abnormalities in the brain were associated with more severe motor, anxiety, and alexithymia symptoms. As one might expect, subjects with functional motor symptoms had abnormally high scores on their psychological tests, which correlated to their depression, anxiety, and alexithymia, as well as low scores for quality of life.

"These results bring new perspectives to the problem of functional motor symptoms, which have mainly been considered psychological problems," said co-author Dr. Alberto Priori, PhD, of the Aldo Ravelli Research Center at the University of Milan in Italy, in a statement. "These findings suggest that these abnormal chemical changes in the brain could play a key role in functional motor symptoms, ultimately leading to the abnormal movements."

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