Functional brain imaging in respiratory medicine
Discordance of clinical symptoms with markers of disease severity remains a conundrum in a variety of respiratory conditions. The breathlessness of chronic lung disease correlates poorly with spirometry, yet is a better predictor of mortality. In chronic cough, symptoms are often evident without clear physical cause. In asthma, the terms over perceivers and under perceivers are common parlance. In all these examples, aberrant brain mechanisms may explain the mismatch between symptoms and pathology. Functional MRI is a non-invasive method of measuring brain function. It has recently become significantly advanced enough to be useful in clinical research and to address these potential mechanisms. This article explains how FMRI works, current understanding from FMRI in breathlessness, cough and asthma and suggests possibilities for future research.