Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 11, pp 1420–1424 | Cite as

Altered small-world, functional brain networks in patients with lower back pain

  • Jing Liu
  • Feng Zhang
  • Xiufen Liu
  • Zhizheng Zhuo
  • Juan Wei
  • Minyi Du
  • Queenie Chan
  • Xiaoying WangEmail author
  • Dongxin WangEmail author
Research Paper


In this study, we aimed to investigate the functional network changes that occur in patients with lower back pain (LBP). We also investigated the link between LBP and the small-world properties of functional networks within the brain. Functional MRI (fMRI) was performed on 20 individuals with LBP and 17 age and gender-matched normal controls during the resting state. The severity of the pain in the individuals with LBP ranged from 5 to 8 on a 0–10 scale, with 0 indicating no pain. Network-based statistics were performed to investigate the differences between the brain networks of individuals with LBP and those of normal controls. Several small-world parameters of brain networks were calculated, including the clustering coefficient, characteristic path length, local efficiency, and global efficiency. These criteria reflect the overall network efficiency. The brain networks in the individuals with LBP due to herniation of a lumbar disc demonstrated a significantly longer characteristic path length as well as a lower clustering coefficient, global efficiency, and local efficiency compared to those in control subjects. We found that LBP patients tended to have unstable and inefficient brain networks when compared with healthy controls. In addition, LBP individuals showed significantly decreased functional connectivity in the anterior cingulate cortex, middle cingulate cortex, post cingulate cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, occipital gyrus, postcentral gyrus, precentral gyrus, supplementary motor area, thalamus, fusiform, caudate, and cerebellum. We believe that these regions may be involved in the pathophysiology of lower back pain.


small-world network brain functional networks resting-state fMRI low back pain 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81401932) and the Beijing Natural Science Foundation (7154246).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Liu
    • 1
  • Feng Zhang
    • 2
  • Xiufen Liu
    • 2
  • Zhizheng Zhuo
    • 3
  • Juan Wei
    • 4
  • Minyi Du
    • 2
  • Queenie Chan
    • 5
  • Xiaoying Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dongxin Wang
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of RadiologyPeking University First HospitalBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of AnesthesiologyPeking University First HospitalBeijingChina
  3. 3.Philips HealthcareBeijingChina
  4. 4.Philips Research ChinaShanghaiChina
  5. 5.Philips HealthcareHong KongChina

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