Authors: Yenisel Cruz-Almeida, MSPH, PhD, Eric Porges, PhD, Adam Woods, PhD, Jessica Reade, BHS, Lorraine Hoyos, BS, Corey Nack, BS, Ronald Cohen, PhD
Faculty Mentor: Yenisel Cruz-Almeida, MSPH, PhD
College: College of Medicine
Neurochemical brain alterations have been reported in aging and in persons with chronic pain. Given chronic pain is highly prevalent in older individuals, it is not currently known whether neurochemical brain alterations are associated with older age and/or chronic pain. The goal of the study was to determine age and pain differences in brain neurochemistry. NEPAL study participants included younger (18-26 years,n=20) and cognitively intact older adults with (n=25, pain>3 months) and without chronic pain (n=13, age=71.7±7.8, 63% female). We acquired a frontal brain voxel (1H-MRS) using a MEGA-PRESS sequence to measure the following metabolite concentrations reflecting neuronal health (N–acetyl aspartate [NAA]), glial activation/neuroinflammation (Myo-Inositol [Ins]), cell membrane turnover (total choline [tCho]), and energy metabolism (total creatine [tCr]). Older individuals had significantly lower [NAA] compared to younger controls (p=0.0003), and alternatively significantly greater [Ins], [tCr] and [tCho] compared to younger controls (p=0.016, p=0.027 and p=0.016, respectively). Older adults with chronic pain had greater [Ins] compared to those without pain (p=0.027). No other metabolites differed significantly between the groups. Our findings suggest that aging is associated with metabolites reflecting neuronal health, cell membrane turnover, and energy metabolism while pain in older individuals accounted for differences in glial activation and neuroinflammation.