London: Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) demonstrate grey matter decreases in areas of the brain that process breathlessness, fear and sensitivity to pain, says a new study.
COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of the disease.
"Targeting disease-specific fears in patients with COPD might not only improve outcomes of clinical interventions such as pulmonary rehabilitation, but also reverse structural brain changes in these patients," said one of the researchers Andreas von Leupoldt from University of Leuven in Belgium.
For the study, the researchers tested 30 stable outpatients with moderate-to-severe COPD and 30 control participants with no history of the disease.
All study participants underwent an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compatibility check to obtain structural brain images.
Patients with COPD show regionally decreased grey matter volume in the anterior, mid, and posterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala, the findings showed.
Levels of degeneration in certain areas of the brain were also impacted by longer disease duration.
Those individuals showed a greater fear of breathlessness and fear of physical activity, which can affect the course of the disease, said the study published in the journal CHEST.