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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.16.23290031

Hypothalamus volumes in adolescent Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Impact of self-reported fatigue and illness duration

H.Byrne E. K. Josev S. J. Knight ...+3 M. L. Seal
Adolescent Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex illness of unknown aetiology. Emerging theories suggest ME/CFS may reflect a progressive, aberrant state of homeostasis caused by disturbances within the hypothalamus, yet few studies have investigated this using magnetic resonance imaging in adolescents with ME/CFS. We conducted a volumetric analysis to investigate whether whole and regional hypothalamus volumes in adolescents with ME/CFS differed compared to healthy controls, and whether these volumes were associated with fatigue severity and illness duration. 48 adolescents (25 ME/CFS, 23 controls) were recruited. Lateralised whole and regional hypothalamus volumes, including the anterior superior, superior tubular, posterior, anterior inferior and inferior tubular subregions, were calculated from T1 weighted images. When controlling for age, sex and intracranial volume, Bayesian linear regression revealed no evidence for differences in hypothalamus volumes between groups. However, in the ME/CFS group, a negative linear relationship between right anterior superior volumes and fatigue severity was identified, which was absent in controls. In addition, Bayesian ordinal regression revealed a likely-positive association between illness duration and right superior tubular volumes in the ME/CFS group. While these findings suggest overall comparability in regional and whole hypothalamus volumes between adolescents with ME/CFS and controls, preliminary evidence was identified to suggest greater fatigue and longer illness duration were associated with greater right anterior superior and superior tubular volumes, respectively. These regions contain the anterior and superior divisions of the paraventricular nucleus, involved in the neuroendocrine response to stress, suggesting involvement in ME/CFS pathophysiology. However, replication in a larger, longitudinal cohort is required.