Making a Difference The Arthritis Foundation is currently funding seven studies focused on fibromyalgia, representing a total commitment of nearly $1.6 million. <B>Delivering on the Promise in Fibromyalgia</B> 1. Mind-Body Interactions (2 studies) 2. Extent of Memory Problems in Fibromyalgia 3. Treatment Options 4. Helping People Take Control 5. Role of Neuropeptides 6. Pain Sensitivity Research Progress The causes, underlying pathologic processes, and optimal treatment of fibromyalgia are not yet well understood. There is increasing evidence that abnormalities of the nervous system involving heightened pain perception play a role in its development. The pain intensity that people with fibromyalgia report correlates with changes that can be detected in the brain. Researchers are focusing on trying to better understand the role of chemicals such as hormones and neuropeptides, which convey pain messages from nerve cells to the spinal cord and the brain. Two such chemicals shown to be altered in fibromyalgia are substance P, which initiates pain signals after injury, and serotonin, which tones down the intensity of pain signals. Studies have shown elevated levels of substance P and low levels of serotonin in people with fibromyalgia. Investigators have also found alterations in the stress response of people with fibromyalgia. The stress response is a mechanism that allows for interactions between the brain and body to help people respond to physical and emotional challenges. Researchers are also interested in examining in the role of environmental factors in fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia can be triggered by musculoskeletal pain due to arthritis or injury. Almost 20 percent of people with rheumatic diseases, such as systemic lupus, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, also have fibromyalgia. Certain types of infections, such as Lyme disease, can also trigger fibromyalgia. Ongoing research aims to determine what factors may make certain people susceptible to fibromyalgia. Behavioral research has begun to identify important non-drug approaches to fibromyalgia treatment such as using behavioral therapy to enhance coping skills, instituting an exercise program, or improving sleep habits to help improve quality of life. Determining new and optimal treatments for fibromyalgia is an important part of the research effort.