A better understanding of Trigeminal Neuralgia through UTCSP trainee research

Trigeminal neuralgia is an incredibly intense form of neuropathic pain which is restricted to the distribution of the trigeminal nerve of afflicted patients. It is characterized by brief, intense periods of craniofacial pain. Many types of neuropathic pain disorders show changes in brain white matter (the parts of the brain where myelinated axons of neurons reside), which could indicate unhealthy and abnormal neuronal function. This study sought to determine if the brain of trigeminal neuralgia patients exhibits white matter differences as well. This was performed using a technique known as DWI (diffusion-weighted MRI), which is capable of tracking the movement of water molecules. The entire brain is imaged, and split into small 3D pixels (referred to as voxels), with each voxel receiving a value from 0-1 depending on the ability of water to move. Normal white matter would have a value closer to 1, as water molecules would not be able to move freely through densely packed axons. This study found that trigeminal neuralgia affects white matter in the brain. Interestingly, these white matter abnormalities were in parts of the brain considered to be responsible for pain interpretation and emotional aspects of pain, as well as motor function. This suggests that trigeminal neuralgia may not be affecting only the trigeminal nerve, but also changing the way the brain senses and regulates pain.

To read the article; please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2013.08.029

      

Reference: D.D. DeSouza, M. Hodaie, K.D. Davis, Abnormal Trigeminal Nerve Microstructure and Brain White Matter in Idiopathic Trigeminal Neuralgia, PAIN (2013),