A study found that patients with COPD showed regionally decreased gray matter in areas of the brain that process fear, sensitivity to pain, and breathlessness. The regions of the brain that revealed decreased gray matter volume were the anterior, mid, and posterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. The research team tested 30 stable outpatients with moderate-to-severe COPD and 30 control subjects with no history of the disease.

All participants underwent an MRI compatibility check to obtain structural brain images. Patients were also tested for lung function using spirometry, and assessed with the COPD Anxiety Questionnaire (CAF), according to News Medical. In addition to decreased gray matter volume, the study also found levels of degeneration in certain areas of the brain were also impacted by longer disease duration.

The News Medical report also notes that these individuals showed a greater fear of breathlessness as well as the fear of physical activity, which may affect the course of the disease.

Andreas von Leupoldt, PhD, from the Research Group Health Psychology, University of Leuven in Belgium, says, “Targeting disease-specific fears in patients with COPD might not only improve outcomes of clinical interventions such as pulmonary rehabilitation, but also reverse structural brain changes in these patients.”

Source: News Medical