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Chronic pain in multiple sclerosis is common and difficult to treat. Its mechanisms remain incompletely understood. Dysfunction of the descending pain modulatory system is known to contribute to human chronic pain conditions. However, it is not clear how alterations in executive function influence this network, despite healthy volunteer studies linking function of the descending pain modulatory system, to cognition. In adults with multiple sclerosis-associated chronic neuropathic limb pain, compared to those without pain, we hypothesized altered functional connectivity of the descending pain modulatory system, coupled to executive dysfunction. Specifically we hypothesized reduced mental flexibility, because of potential importance in stimulus reappraisal. To investigate these hypotheses, we conducted a case-control cross-sectional study of 47 adults with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (31 with chronic neuropathic limb pain, 16 without pain), employing clinical, neuropsychological, structural, and functional MRI measures. We measured brain lesions and atrophy affecting descending pain modulatory system structures. Both cognitive and affective dysfunctions were confirmed in the chronic neuropathic limb pain group, including reduced mental flexibility (Delis Kaplan Executive Function System card sorting tests P 

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Commun

Publication Date





brainstem, cognition, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic, pain