May 4 2002
An area of the brain that controls the stomach receives substantially less blood in some people with chronic fatigue syndrome, a study shows.
The finding adds more weight to the argument that the controversial illness is biological, not psychological.
Brain scans of 40 chronic fatigue patients were carried out by Adelaide scientists and compared against the scans of healthy people.
The director of nuclear medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Steven Unger, who headed the study along with neurologist Dr Rey Casse, said: "There was a very strong change in cerebral blood flow in patients."
The study showed a reduction in blood flow to the brain's insula cortex, which governs the smooth muscle in the gut. Unexplained stomach and bowel symptoms are common complaints for chronic fatigue patients.
The findings also showed a 20 per cent reduction in blood flow to the left lateral temporal lobe, which controls access to words, in younger chronic fatigue patients. Severe sufferers often experience difficulty expressing themselves.
In separate research, endocrinologist Dr Richard Burnett, of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, has shown that chronic fatigue patients who report gastric symptoms empty fluid from their guts at less than half the speed of people who are well.
"Talking to patients, about half of them have some kind of [gut symptoms], such as abdominal bloating after eating a small meal," he said.
"A delay in liquids means a central problem. It comes from the brain."
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