Cortical autonomic network connectivity predicts symptoms in myalgic encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), by Mark A Zinn, Leonard A Jason in International Journal of Psychophysiology Vol 170, Dec 2021, Pages 89-101 []



  • The findings of this study contribute to the understanding of unexplained symptoms in patients with ME/CFS.
  • Graph theoretical analysis revealed topological differences between groups that were associated with patient symptoms.
  • Results suggest that cortical dysregulation with this network may serve as a therapeutic target for patients.

Research abstract:

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) represents a significant public health challenge given the presence of many unexplained patient symptoms. Research has shown that many features in ME/CFS may result from a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system (ANS).

We explored the role of the cortical autonomic network (CAN) involved in higher-order control of ANS functioning in 34 patients with ME/CFS and 34 healthy controls under task-free conditions. All participants underwent resting-state quantitative electroencephalographic (qEEG) scalp recordings during an eyes-closed condition.

Source analysis was performed using exact low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (eLORETA), and lagged coherence was used to estimate intrinsic functional connectivity between each node across 7 frequency bands: delta (1–3 Hz), theta (4–7 Hz), alpha-1 (8–10 Hz), alpha-2 (10–12 Hz), beta-1 (13–18 Hz), beta-2 (19–21 Hz), and beta-3 (22–30 Hz).

Symptom ratings were measured using the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire and the Short Form (SF-36) health survey.

Graph theoretical analysis of weighted, undirected connections revealed significant group differences in baseline CAN organization. Regression results showed that cognitive, affective, and somatomotor symptom cluster ratings were associated with alteration to CAN topology in patients, depending on the frequency band. These findings provide evidence for reduced higher-order homeostatic regulation and adaptability in ME/CFS. If confirmed, these findings address the CAN as a potential therapeutic target for managing patient symptoms.

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