"I believe in a central truth - that
science will eventually triumph. There has been scientific
progress in understanding this illness. We do know much more
than we knew 20 years ago, and the puzzle pieces are coming
-Dr. Daniel Peterson-
There have been
over 4,000 peer reviewed articles on ME and CFS, and there are many
websites with comprehensive research article listings. (See our
Links page for those websites.) On our
Research Categories pages we list some of the more notable
articles, some as abstracts and some
full journal articles, that firmly support our
Goals. There are many overlapping body systems
involved in ME and CFS, since the central nervous system (CNS) is the
"master control" of all body functions, and much of the research
points to damage and dysfunction of the CNS. CNS damage and
dysfunction will affect all body systems--immune, cardiovascular,
endocrine--while dysfunction of these body systems in turn affect
others, including the CNS. So some of the articles and
abstracts contained here may be listed in more than one category.
(For example, an article concerning orthostatic intolerance may be
in both the circulatory and the neurological sections.)
will be growing and evolving over time, as more information is
gathered and categorized, and as exciting discoveries in recent
years have helped pick up the the research pace. Follow the
links to the right to explore the research on various body systems
affected by ME and CFS.
(magnetic resonance imaging) studies have detected small
brain lesions, abnormalities in white and gray brain matter,
and significant decreases in gray matter. See the
page in this research section for more about
Research Overview Introduction
Though early observations date back to 1934, most ME and CFS
research has been carried out since the late 1980s due to
technological advances (unfortunately some wasted in futile
attempts to prove that this is a mental illness, rather than a
physical disease of the central nervous system [CNS]). But
diligent researchers have worked to compile a vast body of
evidence of physical abnormalities in patients with ME and CFS, and have begun to put together the pieces of the ME/CFS
puzzle. We thank them for their continuing efforts and are
pleased to feature their work here.
We credit these dedicated
researchers, some who have been in the field for more than 30
years, with a brief summary of their discoveries
below, and more
detailed lists in the various sub-categories in the Research and
Definitions pages of the NAME-US.org website. Some of these
researchers have, sadly, passed away, but have also passed on
invaluable observations of up to four generations of ME
Neuroimaging of ME/CFS
brains has shown objective evidence of poor and abnormal
oxygenation, abnormal energy metabolism, small lesions in
various areas of the brain, and significant reduction in gray
matter. Spinal taps and autopsies have shown definite
signs of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.
researchers have found significant autonomic nervous system (ANS)
abnormalities, such as the inability to maintain blood pressure
as well as heart rate irregularities in an upright position, and
pooling of deoxygenated blood in extremities.
Neurocognitive studies (i.e. studies of how the patient
processes information) have shown that patients have difficulty
with memory, concentration and many other thought processes,
that they require more energy to process information, and that
their ability to process information worsens with physical
exercise or prolonged mental tasks.
studies have shown chronic activation of some parts of the
immune system, while other parts are functioning sub-normally,
causing chronic infections by any of several pathogens,
including reactivation of latent viruses, multiple and severe
allergies, the "flu-like", "poisoned", and "hangover" feelings
so often described in ME/CFS, and very likely many more of the
long list of symptoms.
Abnormalities in the cardiovascular system have been noted since
the first definitions of ME in the 1950s. More recent
studies have found chronic viral damage to the heart, low
circulating blood volume, improper heart function,
vascular abnormalities and misshapen red blood cells.
Serial exercise tests have recently documented low anaerobic
threshold, indicating the post-exertional damage that is the
hallmark of ME/CFS.
Gene profiling and other
genetic studies have found changes most prominently in genes
relating to mitochondrial (energy) and
immune function, as well as oxidative stress.
oxidative stress in ME/CFS show that several potent free
radicals are upregulated, particularly during and after physical or mental
Researchers have shown what clinicians and patients knew fifty
years ago about ME - that aerobic exercise worsens symptoms
and the patients' prognosis.
studies, including neuroimaging, have shown that there is a low
incidence of psychologically-related problems in ME/CFS
patients, that the disease is not caused or maintained by
psychological factors, that it is distinct from clinical
depression, and depression rates in ME/CFS are comparable to
those with other chronic illnesses.
ME has a
history of as many as 75
epidemics worldwide since 1935.
More recent epidemiology (the study of epidemics) has shown that
ME/CFS is widespread, very often misdiagnosed, and has a
devastating effect not only on the patients but on families and
the economy. One study showed ME/CFS patients die fairly
young on average (mid-50s and 60s), usually of heart failure or
cancer, with suicide risk in younger patients, probably due to the
misconceptions perpetuated in the past about this disease.