(HealthDay News) – Compared with healthy control subjects, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have reduced intracranial volumes and structural changes in the subcortical gray matter, but do not have localized cortical gray matter atrophy, according to research published in the February issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Karolina Wartolowska, M.D., D.Phil., of the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain in the United Kingdom, and colleagues used high-resolution structural magnetic resonance imaging methods to evaluate whether the brains of 31 patients with RA displayed cortical or subcortical gray matter structural changes when compared with 25 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects.

The researchers found that patients with RA had smaller intracranial volumes compared with healthy control subjects. In addition, there was an increase in the gray matter content in the basal ganglia of patients with RA, primarily in the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus. No between-group differences were observed in the cortical gray matter.

“This study did not identify localized cortical atrophy in RA,” the authors write. “There was an increase in the subcortical gray matter in the basal ganglia of the patient group, mainly in the right caudate nucleus and in the nucleus accumbens. This probably reflects an effect of pain processing, dysfunctional dopaminergic transmission, or alterations in mobility.”

The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline.

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