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BSMS researcher awarded grant to investigate undetectable ‘brain fog’ disorder

Dr Jessica Eccles, NIHR Clinical Lecturer at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), has been awarded a $100,000 grant by Dysautonomia International to develop her research on postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).

POTS, an under-studied disorder, is characterised by clinical symptoms such as lightheadedness, fatigue, shortness of breath, tremors, heart palpitations and fainting or near-fainting upon moving from a prone to upright position.

In addition to symptoms related to the autonomic nervous system, patients frequently describe brain fog – a strong sense of difficulty when thinking and concentrating.

“Research suggests that almost all patients with POTS experience this disabling symptom – however the mechanisms underpinning brain fog and its impact on quality of life are currently very poorly understood,” Dr Eccles said. “With this grant from Dysautonomia International, I will seek to address this problem by understanding the brain-body mechanisms involved in brain fog.”

POTS mainly affects women (about 85% of cases). Patients with POTS often experience thinking difficulties when the autonomic nervous system is challenged by being placed on a tilt table or standing, and there are also accompanying changes in blood flow in the brain.

Dr Eccles believes that that brain fog may arise in a similar way, and hopes this project can further explore this area by combing such techniques with non-invasive imaging of the brain – use of an electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Dr Eccles explained: “Recent data from brain scans shows that challenging the autonomic nervous system in a similar way to standing changes blood flow in the brain in otherwise healthy individuals. Prior research demonstrates that POTS patients have altered blood flow to the brain when they stand. We think this may well be why patients with POTS experience brain fog.”

Dr Eccles hopes her research will help increase knowledge among patients and doctors alike. “We believe that this project will be relevant to finding and personalising treatments to individuals with POTS, brain fog and also patients with other conditions related to the autonomic nervous system. Potentially, this will bring relief from a considerably disabling symptom that has a significant impact on quality of life for patients living with these conditions.”

Lauren Stiles, President of Dysautonomia International, added: “Dysautonomia International is pleased to support the innovative POTS research occurring at BSMS, led by Dr Eccles. Gaining a better understanding of brain functioning in POTS may help us identify better treatment options for millions of people around the world living with POTS.”

Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) is a partnership between the Universities of Sussex and Brighton and the local NHS health community.


Posted on behalf of: BSMS
Last updated: Monday, 24 September 2018

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