Deakin University
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Anti-TNFα therapy in IBD alters brain activity reflecting visceral sensory function and cognitive-affective biases

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-03-01, 00:00 authored by Marcus A Gray, Che-Yung Chao, Heidi StaudacherHeidi Staudacher, Natasha A Kolosky, Nicholas J Talley, Gerald Holtmann
BACKGROUND: In inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), immune activation with increased circulating TNF-α is linked to the intensity of gastrointestinal symptoms and depression or anxiety. A central feature of depression is cognitive biases linked to negative attributions about self, the world and the future. We aimed to assess the effects of anti-TNFα therapy on the central processing of self-attribution biases and visceral afferent information in patients with Crohn's disease. METHODS: We examined 9 patients with Crohn's disease (age 26.1±10.6. yrs, 5 female, 5 ileocolonic, 2 colonic and 2 ileal disease) during chronic anti-TNFα therapy (5 adalimumab, 4 infliximab). Patients were studied twice in randomized order before and after anti-TNFα administration. On each occasion patients underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain during a test of implicit attribution biases regarding sickness/health and undertook a standardized nutrient challenge. RESULTS: Following anti-TNFα treatment, ratings of 'fullness' following nutrient challenge reduced compared to pre-treatment ratings (p<0.05). Reaction times revealed improved processing of self-related and positive health words, consistent with improved implicit sense of wellbeing that correlated with improvements in sensory function after treatment (r = 0.67, p<0.05). Treatment-associated improvements in implicit processing were mirrored by alterations of prefrontal, amygdala, posterior cingulate and visual regions. Between patients, the degree of functional amygdala change was additionally explained by individual differences in attention regulation and body awareness rankings. CONCLUSION: In patients with Crohn's disease, anti-TNFα administration reduces visceral sensitivity and improves implicit cognitive-affective biases linked to alterations in limbic (amygdala) function.



PLoS one





Article number



Public Library of Science


San Francisco, Calif.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2018, Gray et al.