Chronic Sinus Inflammation Appears to Alter Brain Activity

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Summary: Researchers link the inflammation associated with chronic sinus infections to alterations in brain activity in networks that govern cognition, external stimuli, and introspection. The findings shed light on why people suffering from sinus infections often report poor concentration and other short-term cognitive problems.

The millions of people who have chronic sinusitis deal not only with stuffy noses and headaches, they also commonly struggle to focus, and experience depression and other symptoms that implicate the brain’s involvement in their illness.

New research links sinus inflammation with alterations in brain activity, specifically with the neural networks that modulate cognition, introspection and response to external stimuli.

The paper was published today in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

“This is the first study that links chronic sinus inflammation with a neurobiological change,” said lead author Dr. Aria Jafari, a surgeon and assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“We know from previous studies that patients who have sinusitis often decide to seek medical care not because they have a runny nose and sinus pressure, but because the disease is affecting how they interact with the world: They can’t be productive, thinking is difficult, sleep is lousy. It broadly impacts their quality of life. Now we have a prospective mechanism for what we observe clinically.”

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