The Brain and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

This article shares research into the brain and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (the chronic illness known as ME and CFS).

Many of us living with ME experience cognitive difficulties, and what is often known as brain fog.

Noticing these symptoms, some scientists have chosen to research the brains of those living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

research into the brain and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

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Research into the brain and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome December 2018

Evidence of widespread metabolite abnormalities in ME/CFS

When: December 2018 with results to be published in early 2019. Look out for “Brain imaging and behavior”.

Who: Jarred Younger PhD, director of the Neuroinflammation, pain and  fatigue laboratory.

Where: USA. University of Alabama, Birmingham

Method: Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Desired outcome: To be able to diagnose and treat neuroinflammation, pain and fatigue

Observation: Evidence of widespread metabolite abnormalities in ME/CFS

Funded by: Ramsay Pilot Study. NIH, DOD and others

More information at:

The brain and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome October 2014

Brain abnormalities identified in patients with MyalgicE


1) Method: MRI scan.

Result: Overall white-matter content of CFS patients’ brains was reduced compared with that of healthy subjects’.
These are areas which process information and convey information from one part of the brain to another.

(Inflammation, is known to take a particular toll on white matter.)

2) Method: Advanced imaging technique – diffusion-tensor imaging.

Result: A consistent abnormality in a particular part of a nerve tract in the right hemisphere of CFS patients’ brains.

A fairly strong correlation with the abnormality revealed above and the level of illness of the patient.

3) A thickening of the gray matter at the two areas of the brain connected by the right arcuate fasciculus in the CFS patients, an observation which corresponds with the abnormality in the white matter joining them.


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Who carried out the research: Michael Zeineh and colleagues

Size of survey: 15 patients with ME.

When was the ME research published: 30 October 2014 in Radiology

Find out more at:

Or read the comment by the UK ME Research UK at

Follow up: At the time of writing, the Stanford scientists were planning a larger study.

Note from webmaster Katherine T Owen about brain abnormalities identified in ME patients:

An MRI brain scan I had done back in 2002 showed "The frontal cerebral sulci appear a little prominent". I wonder if this is a connected result.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and CFS affect between 1 million and 4 million individuals in the United States.

In the UK the estimate is 250,000 of which one quarter are housebound or bedbound.

The brain and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome May 2014

Brain abnormalities in patients with CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) - PET scans

This was a small study.

Nonetheless PET scans showed significant increases in inflammation in certain regions of the brains of CFS patients who satisfied the criteria for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

Who? - Yasuyoshi Watanabe, director of the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies.

Where to read more?

Articles related to the brain and CFS/ME

  • If you are aware of significant research on CFS/ME and the brain which is not included here, I would be grateful if you share the news in the forum.

Read a full list of the research I have shared on the biology of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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