Researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have recently conducted a study and found out that insomnia therapy affects patients with fibromyalgia by slowing down or reversing cortical gray matter atrophy. Preliminary findings suggest that around eight weeks of cognitive-behavioral therapy also known as CBT-I affects the central nervous system structure by slowing down or even reversing the atrophy of cortical gray matter in individuals who suffer from co-morbid fibromyalgia.

From the study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, we found out that patients that have received CBT-I developed cortical thickness during and after the treatment, while the patients who were in the control group developed thinning of the cortex. Researchers also tried cognitive behavioral therapy for pain (CBT-P) but failed to produce the same or similar results as with cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia. CBT-P seemed to slightly reduce cortical atrophy, while CBT-I increased cortical thickness.

The study was conducted by analyzing data from a larger clinical trial about the efficacy of CBT-I and cognitive behavioral therapy for pain for fibromyalgia and insomnia. From 2009 to 2012, participants were used for a parent study, and some of them also underwent MRI before and after eight weeks of treatment. 37 patients were assigned to CBT-I, CBT-P or to a control group and interventions lasted for 8 weeks. The therapy consisted of 50-minute sessions with a trained therapist where patients were educated about sleep hygiene, stimulus control, autogenic relaxation, sleep restriction and similar. CBT-P consisted of pain education, how to do progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery relaxation and so on.

The lead author of the study Christina McCrae concluded that CBT-I can reverse or resolve pain-related, neural plasticity and has essential implications for chronic pain sufferers. McCrae will also research the treatment of chronic pain using cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic insomnia, and particularly focus on improving sleep in women with fibromyalgia by promoting positive changes in how the brain processes and responds to pain.


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