Default mode network connectivity is related to pain frequency and intensity in adolescents

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19 Scopus citations


Pain during adolescence is common and is associated with future pain chronicity and mental health in adulthood. However, understanding of the neural underpinnings of chronic pain has largely come from studies in adults, with recent studies in adolescents suggesting potentially unique neural features during this vulnerable developmental period. In addition to alterations in the pain network, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies in adults suggest alterations in the default mode network (DMN), involved in internally-driven, self-referential thought, may underlie chronic pain; however, these findings have yet to be examined in adolescents. The current study sought to investigate associations between pain frequency and intensity, and disruptions in DMN connectivity, in adolescents. Adolescents (ages 12–20) with varying levels of pain frequency and intensity, recruited from a pediatric pain clinic and the local community (n = 86; 60% female), underwent resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Using independent components analysis, the DMN was identified and correlated voxel-wise to assess associations between pain frequency and intensity and DMN connectivity. Findings revealed that adolescents with greater pain frequency demonstrated greater DMN to superior frontal gyrus connectivity, while adolescents with greater pain intensity demonstrated lesser DMN to cerebellum (lobule VIII) connectivity, during rest. These findings suggest that increasing levels of pain are associated with potential desegregation of the DMN and the prefrontal cortex, important for cognitive control, and with novel patterns of DMN to cerebellum connectivity. These findings may prove beneficial as neurobiological targets for future treatment efforts in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102326
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2020


  • Adolescence
  • Default mode network
  • Pain
  • Resting state
  • Superior frontal gyrus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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