Abnormal Visual Evoked Responses to Emotional Cues Correspond to Diagnosis and Disease Severity in Fibromyalgia

Noam Goldway, Nathan M. Petro, Jacob Ablin, Andreas Keil, Eti Ben Simon, Yoav Zamir, Libat Weizman, Ayam Greental, Talma Hendler, Haggai Sharon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chronic pain disorders are often associated with cognitive-emotional dysregulation. However, the relations between such dysregulation, underlying brain processes, and clinical symptom constellations, remain unclear. Here, we aimed to characterize the abnormalities in cognitive-emotional processing involved in fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and their relation to disease severity. Methods: Fifty-eight participants, 39 FMS patients (35F), and 19 healthy control subjects (16F) performed an EEG-based paradigm assessing attention allocation by extracting steady-state visually evoked potentials (ssVEP) in response to affective distractors presented during a cognitive task. Patients were also evaluated for pain severity, sleep quality, depression, and anxiety. Results: EEG ssVEP measurement indicated that, compared to healthy controls, FMS patients displayed impaired affective discrimination, and sustained attention to negative distractors. Moreover, patients displayed decreased task-related fronto-occipital EEG connectivity. Lack of adaptive attentional discrimination, measured via EEG, was predictive of pain severity, while impairments in fronto-occipital connectivity were predictive of impaired sleep. Conclusions: FMS patients display maladaptive affective attention modulation, which predicts disease symptoms. These findings support the centrality of cognitive-emotional dysregulation in the pathophysiology of chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number852133
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
StatePublished - 4 May 2022


  • EEG
  • attention bias dynamics
  • chronic pain & fibromyalgia
  • emotion regulation
  • ssVEP (steady-state visual evoked potential)


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