Marcie Zinn, Mark Zinn, and Leonard Jason of DePaul University published a case study this week that details how qEEGs can clearly show the dysregulation that occurs in the brains of CFS patients. The case study is of a 43-year old man with CFS (diagnosed by his doctor using the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire and meeting the Canadian Clinical Case definition).
EEG records surface brain electrical activity, and qEEGs/Loreta uses complex math to localize brain activity deeper in the brain down to a millisecond time scale. A qEEG can be thought of as a real-time readout of brain function that lets you see what different areas of the brain are doing. As the researchers explain, “the functional connectivity networks of this patient were sufficiently deregulated to cause” the cognitive symptoms frequently seen in patients which are often referred to as “brain fog”. The Zinns have seen similar qEEG results in other patients, and the qEEGs/Loreta Analyses of patients differs significantly from that of controls.
In the paper’s conclusion, the researchers explain:
These deregulated states represent the brain during nonoptimal functioning, rendering it inefficient for most types of information processing functioning, whether it is executive functioning, memory, perceptual reasoning or information processing speed. When phase lock is significantly less than normal, as in this data set, the ability of the brain to sustain commitment of resources to mediate different functions is severely compromised. Phase shift duration in this data is also hypoactive, meaning that significantly less neurons are being recruited to perform a function than normal. The results here indicate slowed verbal comprehension, executive functions, perceptual reasoning, processing speed and memory, the sum total of which is known as cognitive impairment.
The researchers mention at the end that, “This study involved only one patient, so until it is replicated with larger samples, the results need to be considered preliminary.” Although they did not mention this in the paper, they saw similar results in patients in an unpublished blinded fifty patient/fifty control study at Stanford. You can find more information on their research on the bottom of page 42 of the 2014 IACFS/ME syllabus. The title of the first abstract is “EEG peak alpha frequency is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome: a case control observational study” and the second abstract “Cortical hypoactivation during resting state EEG suggests central nervous system pathology in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A source analysis pilot study.”
In the second abstract from the IACFS/ME conference the researchers conclude that “taken together, our findings provide objective quantification of central nervous system dysregulation in CFS sufferers. A model of prolonged subcortical deregulation is hypothesized to explain the results.”
They explain that “qEEG will not provide a stand-alone diagnostic, but would integrate into a clinical diagnostic regimen.” Similar issues with brain function are seen in other serious neurological disorders which is why qEEG/Loreta would need to be used in conjunction with others tests and/or clinical observations to confirm diagnosis.
The Zinns and Leonard Jason are working on more research into this area, including replicating the Stanford research. The researchers told #MEAction that they just had two more articles accepted, which should be coming out very soon. One is a review article discussing the neuroscience of CFS/ME, and the other is a case-control study of 18 people (9 patients with ME/9 controls.)