Developing a new “brain training” treatment for fibromyalgia pain

Disease - Fibromyalgia

Lead applicant - Dr Richard Brown

Organisation - University of Manchester

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £143,234.74

Start date - 16 September 2019

Reference - 22215

What is the aim of this research?

Up to 1 person in every 25 has fibromyalgia, causing widespread pain and exhaustion, among other physical symptoms. The aims of this research are to develop and begin testing a new treatment with potential to relieve fibromyalgia pain. The treatment, named perceptual training (‘Pe Tra’), involves patients completing a simple computerised task (a bit like ‘brain training’), that is designed to address the problems underlying fibromyalgia over time.

Why is this research important?

Since up to 50% of people with fibromyalgia do not benefit from existing treatments, finding new and effective treatments is important to reduce the pain. Previous research has found that in fibromyalgia, the brain struggles to interpret pain signals, causing them to be misinterpreted as dangerous: for example, a small knock may produce an exaggerated pain response. This results in continued overactivity in the nervous system, leading to the pain and other symptoms experienced by people with fibromyalgia. The researchers believe that it is possible to use brain training to reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia, by reversing the problem that the nervous system has with interpreting pain signals.

How will the findings benefit patients?

The researchers believe that current treatment options often do not help patients as much as they would like, as other treatments are not based on an understanding of how fibromyalgia causes pain and discomfort. Pe Tra has been developed following many years of research and patient involvement, to ensure a treatment is developed that will address patient needs. Pe Tra will be further developed using healthy volunteers first, before testing its effectiveness on reducing pain in fibromyalgia patients. This study will hopefully provide evidence to understand if Pe Tra should be looked at further in large clinical trials in the future.