Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) doesn’t just cause painful joints. This autoimmune disease is also associated with memory and concentration problems, as well as with general problems in thinking. These cognitive symptoms, known colloquially as “brain fog,” are also found with other inflammatory conditions.
Although the associations are there, it has been difficult to track down the cause of brain fog. Theories have attributed brain fog to the medications people take for RA, the depression that often descends on those in chronic pain, or other causes.
However, a recent study, published in Nature Communications, was able to see how the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis affects the brain directly.
Clinicians typically monitor the severity of RA by keeping track of the level of inflammation in the blood. Researchers took the results of blood tests for inflammation in the study’s participants, who had had rheumatoid arthritis for between 3 and 20 years, and compared them with MRIs of their brains.
The results: blood inflammation levels were highly correlated with changes in areas of the brain associated with visuospatial processing and memory. Researchers also found that the level of inflammation was linked to specific changes in the pattern of connections in specific parts of the brain, leading them to describe an “inflammation configuration”: a pattern that reflected the level of inflammation in the body.
The study sheds light on the complex ways in which inflammation affects the body, including its mysterious effects on the brain.
At Tower Lodge Care Center, there’s nothing mysterious about our ability to keep our residents healthy and happy. That’s because we take a restorative approach to care, maximizing each resident’s ability to maintain function and enjoy life. Tower Lodge Care Center offers long-term care, rehabilitative care, short-term rehab, respite care for those times when family members just need a break, and hospice care.