Alterations in grey matter volume (GMV) and cortical thickness (CT) in Crohn's disease (CD) patients has been previously documented. However, the findings are inconsistent, and not a true representation of CD burden, as only CD patients in remission have been studied thus far. We investigate alterations in brain morphometry in patients with active CD and those in remission, and study relationships between brain structure and key symptoms of fatigue, abdominal pain, and extraintestinal manifestations (EIM). Magnetic Resonance Imaging brain scans were collected in 89 participants; 34 CD participants with active disease, 13 CD participants in remission and 42 healthy controls (HCs); Voxel based morphometry (VBM) assessed GMV and white matter volume (WMV), and surface-based analysis assessed cortical thickness (CT). We show a significant reduction in global cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volume in CD participants compared with HCs, as well as, a reduction in regional GMV, WMV and CT in the left precentral gyrus (motor cortex), and an increase in GMV in the frontal brain regions in CD compared with HCs. Atrophy of the supplementary motor area (SMA) was associated with greater fatigue in CD. We also show alterations in brain structure in multiple regions in CD associated with abdominal pain and extraintestinal inflammations (EIMs). These brain structural alterations likely reflect neuroplasticity to a chronic systemic inflammatory response, abdominal pain, EIMs and fatigue. These findings will aid our understanding of the cross-linking between chronic inflammation, brain structural changes and key unexplained CD symptomatology like fatigue.
Brain Imaging Behav
Brain volume, Chronic inflammation, Cortical thickness, Crohn’s disease, Fatigue, Gut-brain axis, Intestinal inflammation