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Chronic rhinosinusitis, which causes a persistent blocked nose and headaches among other symptoms, affects 11 percent of people in the US – and recent research has found a link between the condition and changes in brain activity.

The team behind the study is hoping that the link will help explain some of the other common effects of the persistent inflammation: finding it hard to focus, struggling with bouts of depression, having trouble sleeping, and dizziness.

Finding a connection between the underlying disease and the neural processing happening elsewhere could be vital in understanding the chronic condition, along with efforts to find better and more effective ways to treat it.

"This is the first study that links chronic sinus inflammation with a neurobiological change," said otolaryngologist Aria Jafari, from the University of Washington; the team's paper was published in April 2021.

"We know from previous studies that patients who have sinusitis often decide to seek medical care not because they have a runny nose and sinus pressure, but because the disease is affecting how they interact with the world. They can't be productive, thinking is difficult, sleep is lousy. It broadly impacts their quality of life. Now we have a prospective mechanism for what we observe clinically."

The researchers tapped into data from the Human Connectome Project to find 22 subjects living with chronic rhinosinusitis and 22 control subjects with no sinus inflammation. Data from fMRI scans were then used to compare blood flow and neuron activity in the brain.

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