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Pain, fatigue and anxiety are common features of fibromyalgia and ME/CFS and significantly impact quality of life. Aetiology is poorly defined but dysfunctional inflammatory, autonomic and interoceptive (sensing of internal bodily signals) processes are implicated.
To investigate how altered interoception relates to baseline expression of pain, fatigue and anxiety symptoms in fibromyalgia and ME/CFS and in response to an inflammatory challenge.
Sixty-five patients with fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS diagnosis and 26 matched controls underwent baseline assessment: pressure-pain thresholds and self-report questionnaires assessing pain, fatigue and anxiety severity. Participants received injections of typhoid (inflammatory challenge) or saline (placebo) in a randomised, double-blind, crossover design, before completing heartbeat tracking tasks. Three interoception dimensions were examined: subjective sensibility, objective accuracy and metacognitive awareness. Interoceptive trait prediction error was calculated as discrepancy between accuracy and sensibility.
Patients with fibromyalgia and ME/CFS had significantly higher interoceptive sensibility and trait prediction error, despite no differences in interoceptive accuracy. Interoceptive sensibility and trait prediction error correlated with all self-report pain, fatigue and anxiety measures, and with lower pain thresholds. Anxiety mediated the positive-predictive relationships between pain (Visual Analogue Scale and Widespread Pain Index), fatigue impact and interoceptive sensibility. After inflammatory challenge, metacognitive awareness correlated with baseline self-reported symptom measures and lower pain thresholds.
This is the first study investigating interoceptive dimensions in patients with fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which were found to be dysregulated and differentially influenced by inflammatory mechanisms. Interoceptive processes may represent a new potential target for diagnostic and therapeutic investigation in these poorly understood conditions.
No significant relationships.
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