Proof chronic fatigue syndrome IS real: Researchers probing poorly-understood ... trends now

Proof chronic fatigue syndrome IS real: Researchers probing poorly-understood ... trends now
Proof chronic fatigue syndrome IS real: Researchers probing poorly-understood ... trends now

Proof chronic fatigue syndrome IS real: Researchers probing poorly-understood ... trends now

For years, chronic fatigue syndrome has been dismissed as being all in the mind.

But new research today ruled the illness — also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) — is real.

Scientists have found, for the first time, key differences in the brains and immune systems of CFS patients.

It suggests the disputed condition's fatigue, which can prove debilitating, is solely down to a 'mismatch' between what a patient's brain thinks it can achieve and what their body actually can.

Experts hope the discovery, by scientists at the US Government's National Institutes of Health, may lead to treatments being developed of the currently incurable condition.

This graph shows the probability of CFS patients in the study (red) choosing to perform a hard task compared to healthy volunteers (blue) over the course of multiple trials . CFS patients were less likely to choose hard tasks and over the course of the trials

This graph shows the probability of CFS patients in the study (red) choosing to perform a hard task compared to healthy volunteers (blue) over the course of multiple trials . CFS patients were less likely to choose hard tasks and over the course of the trials

These graphs show the results of button press rates, how quickly participants could push a button over trials designed to measure fatigue. CFS patients (red) declined quicker and performed less presses overall compared to healthy volunteers (blue)

These graphs show the results of button press rates, how quickly participants could push a button over trials designed to measure fatigue. CFS patients (red) declined quicker and performed less presses overall compared to healthy volunteers (blue)

Graphs showing the results of a maximum grip force test and the time to failure among both CFS patients (red) and healthy volunteers (blue). Boxes show the range of average performance while the thicker vertical lines show the maximum and minimum values recorded

Graphs showing the results of a maximum grip force test and the time to failure among both CFS patients (red) and healthy volunteers (blue). Boxes show the range of average performance while the thicker vertical lines show the maximum and minimum values recorded

Dozens of scientists conducted multiple experiments over five years on 17 patients, comparing their results to 21 healthy controls matched by age, sex and body mass index (BMI).

This included taking MRI scans of people asked to perform repetitive tests where they gripped a device to measure how their brains responded to fatigue. 

CFS patients displayed less activity in the temporal-parietal junction, a part of brain key to exerting effort.

As such, the experts now theorise that disruption to this area is what is behind the tell-tale fatigue. 

Scientists also compared spinal fluid samples between the two patient groups and again found key differences.

A comparison of the immune systems also showed CFS patients had lower levels of memory B cells.

These are a part of the immune system designed to remember foreign substances, like bacteria or viruses, to ensure the body has longer-term protection and doesn't repeatedly risk falling ill every time a person encounters them. 

Dr Avindra Nath, an expert in neuroimmunology at NIH and lead author of the study, said: 'We think that the immune activation is affecting the brain in various ways, causing biochemical changes and downstream effects like motor, autonomic, and cardiorespiratory dysfunction.'

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