J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jan;111(2):239-47 doi: 10.1152/jn.00405.2013. 2013 Oct 23.

Habenula functional resting-state connectivity in pediatric CRPS

Erpelding N, Sava S, Simons LE, Lebel A, Serrano P, Becerra L, Borsook D.


The habenula (Hb) is a small brain structure located in the posterior end of the medial dorsal thalamus and through medial (MHb) and lateral (LHb) Hb connections, it acts as a conduit of information between forebrain and brainstem structures. The role of the Hb in pain processing is well documented in animals and recently also in acute experimental pain in humans. However, its function remains unknown in chronic pain disorders. Here, we investigated Hb resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) in patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) compared with healthy controls. Twelve pediatric patients with unilateral lower-extremity CRPS (9 females; 10-17 yr) and 12 age- and sex-matched healthy controls provided informed consent to participate in the study. In healthy controls, Hb functional connections largely overlapped with previously described anatomical connections in cortical, subcortical, and brainstem structures. Compared with controls, patients exhibited an overall Hb rsFC reduction with the rest of the brain and, specifically, with the anterior midcingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, supplementary motor cortex, primary motor cortex, and premotor cortex. Our results suggest that Hb rsFC parallels anatomical Hb connections in the healthy state and that overall Hb rsFC is reduced in patients, particularly connections with forebrain areas. Patients' decreased Hb rsFC to brain regions implicated in motor, affective, cognitive, and pain inhibitory/modulatory processes may contribute to their symptomatology.

PMID: 24155006