Increased neural noise and impaired brain synchronization in fibromyalgia patients during cognitive interference.
Fibromyalgia (FM) and other chronic pain syndromes are associated with cognitive dysfunction and attentional deficits, but the neural basis of such alterations is poorly understood. Dyscognition may be related to high levels of neural noise, understood as increased random electrical fluctuations that impair neural communication; however, this hypothesis has not yet been tested in any chronic pain condition. Here we compared electroencephalographic activity (EEG) in 18 FM patients -with high self-reported levels of cognitive dysfunction- and 22 controls during a cognitive control task. We considered the slope of the Power Spectrum Density (PSD) as an indicator of neural noise. As the PSD slope is flatter in noisier systems, we expected to see shallower slopes in the EEG of FM patients. Higher levels of neural noise should be accompanied by reduced power modulation and reduced synchronization between distant brain locations after stimulus presentation. As expected, FM patients showed flatter PSD slopes. After applying a Laplacian spatial filter, we found reduced theta and alpha power modulation and reduced midfrontal-posterior theta phase synchronization. Results suggest higher neural noise and impaired local and distant neural coordination in the patients and support the neural noise hypothesis to explain dyscognition in FM.