interstitial cystitis,

  • Brain White Matter Abnormalities in Women with IC/BPS

    woman in pain 267x400"Women with IC/BPS exhibited numerous white matter abnormalities that correlated with severity of pain, urinary symptoms, and impaired quality of life."1

    Particular brain anatomical and functional abnormalities could aid in identifying several chronic pain conditions in females.

    Using multi-center neuroimaging, researchers have associated interstitial cystitis (IC) and bladder pain syndrome (BPS)  in women with irregularities in brain white matter. The Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Chronic Pelvic Pain (MAPP) Research Network neuroimaging study further showed these white matter abnormalities positively corresponded with increased pain, urinary symptoms and debilitated quality of life.

    Researchers studied 34 women with these conditions and 32 healthy women.  Each received questionnaires concerning daily function, mood and pain to evaluate these factors.  Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used in assessing white matter microstructure in the brain, because it exemplified fractional anisotropy (FA), the directional water flow along axons. Areas of the brain that aligned with the parameters of the study were also studied for sex and syndrome dependence.

    Many white matter abnormalities were apparent in women suffering from IC/BPS, and these conditions were characterized by regional increases and decreases of directional water flow along axons. These increases and decreases in white matter integrity are correlated with the severity in IC/BPS symptoms, such as bladder pain, and suggest neuropathological contributions to chronic urological pelvic pain.


    1.  Farmer M, Huang L, Martucci K, Yang C, et al. Brain white matter abnormalities in female interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome: a MAPP NEtwork neuroimaging study.  J Urol 2015; 194(1): 118-126.