Different exercise modalities relieve pain syndrome in patients with knee osteoarthritis and modulate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: A multiple mode MRI study.
Abstract Objectives Knee osteoarthritis (KOA) is a common degenerative joint disease with no satisfactory intervention. Recently, both physical and mindfulness exercises have received considerable attention for their implications in KOA pain management, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) has displayed a critical role in pain modulation. This study aimed to comparatively investigate the modulation effects of different exercises using multidisciplinary measurements. Methods 140 KOA patients were randomized into Tai Chi, Baduanjin, stationary cycling, or health education control groups for 12 weeks. Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS), resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), structural MRI, and serum biomarkers were measured at baseline and at the end of the study. Results We found: 1) increased KOOS pain subscores (pain reduction) and serum programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) levels in the three exercise groups compared to the control group; 2) decreased resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) of the DLPFC-supplementary motor area (SMA) and increased rsFC between the DLPFC and anterior cingulate cortex in all exercise groups compared to the control group; 3) significant associations between DLPFC-SMA rsFC with KOOS pain subscores and serum PD-1 levels at baseline; 4) significantly increased grey matter volume in the SMA in the Tai Chi and stationary cycling groups, and a trend toward significant increase in the Baduanjin group compared to the control group; 5) significant DLPFC rsFC differences among different exercise groups; and 6) that baseline DLPFC-SMA rsFC can predict the effect of mind-body exercise on pain improvement in KOA. Conclusion Our results suggest that different exercises can modulate both common and unique DLPFC (cognitive control) pathways, and altered DLPFC-SMA rsFC is associated with serum biomarker levels. Our findings also highlight the potentials of neuroimaging biomarkers in predicting the therapeutic effect of mind-body exercises on KOA pain.