Endometriosis “Changes” the Brain

Endometriosis “Changes” the Brain

Having endometriosis could increase a woman's sensitivity to pain.

Key Points


  • Endometriosis changes the electrical properties and gene expression in the brain resulting increasing sensitivity to pain.


  • In the future, the genes that are differentially expressed in the brain could be targeted to cure pain and control emotional problems associated with endometriosis.

Key results:

  • Mice with endometriosis were more depressed, anxious, and sensitive to pain.
  • The expression of genes associated with anxiety, locomotion, and pain was altered in several areas of the brain in mice with endometriosis.
  • The electrical properties of the brain of mice with endometriosis were altered.

Limitations of the study:

  • The experiments were performed in mice, and more research is needed to confirm the findings in a clinical setting.
  • There must be a complex network and unless other steps are clarified the exact mechanism would remain a mystery.

Lay Summary

Endometriosis changes the electrical properties of the brain as well as gene expression, according to a study by Yale researchers. These changes increase sensitivity to pain, anxiety, and depression.

“While medications can be used to treat endometriosis directly, the effects on the brain are largely ignored,” the researchers wrote. They added that genes that are differentially expressed in endometriosis could constitute a target for potential treatments that could cure pain and control emotional disorders causing by endometriosis. 

Endometriosis is a condition that is thought to affect as many as one in every ten women in the U.S. It is associated with pelvic pain, painful cramps, and pain during sexual intercourse. It is not known whether endometriosis is mostly diagnosed in women who are naturally more sensitive to pain or whether the condition itself causes an increase in pain perception. 

To shed light onto the link between pain and endometriosis, Dr. Tian Li and colleagues induced endometriosis in mice and analyzed any changes in the behavior of the animals including their perception of pain, the electrical properties of their brain, and the expression of their genes.

Behavioral tests showed that mice with endometriosis were more depressed, anxious, and sensitive to pain than those without.

When the researchers looked at gene expression in the brain, they found that gene expression was different in several regions of the brain between mice with endometriosis and mice without. These included genes that are known to play a role in anxiety, locomotion, and pain.

The researchers also found using a technique called a patch clamp that the recordings obtained from the brain of mice with endometriosis were different from those of the records obtained from the brain of mice without endometriosis, demonstrating that the disease was, in fact, changing the electrical activity of the brain.

The study was published in the scientific journal Biology of Reproduction.

Research Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29425272

brain pain mouse gene expression electrophysiology


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