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