Intrinsic neural network dysfunction in quiescent Crohn's Disease

Thomann AK1, Griebe M2, Thomann PA3,4, Hirjak D5, Ebert MP6, Szabo K2, Reindl W6, Wolf RC3. Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 14;7(1):11579. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-11792-y.

Psychological factors and comorbidities play an important role in inflammatory bowel diseases. Such comorbidity could be associated with a specific neural phenotype. Brain regions associated with emotion regulation and self-referential processing, including areas assigned to the "default mode network" (DMN), could be promising candidates in this regard. We investigated the functional integrity of multiple intrinsic neural networks in remitted patients with Crohn's disease (CD) and sought to establish relationships between neural network connectivity and psychiatric symptoms. Fifteen CD patients in remission and 14 controls were investigated. We employed resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at 3 Tesla followed by a spatial Independent Component Analysis for fMRI data. Abnormal connectivity in CD patients was observed in DMN subsystems only (p < 0.05, cluster-corrected). Increased connectivity was found in the anterior cingulate and left superior medial frontal gyrus (aDMN) and the middle cingulate cortex (pDMN). Middle cingulate activity showed a significant association with anxiety scores in patients (p = 0.029). This study provides first evidence of selectively disrupted intrinsic neural network connectivity in CD and suggests abnormalities of self-referential neural networks. An increased sensitivity to self-related affective and somatic states in CD patients could account for these findings and explain a higher risk for anxiety symptoms.

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