Chronic sinus inflammation appears to alter brain activity: Study findings may help explain patients' complaints of poor concentration and other cognitive symptoms that accompany sinusitis

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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 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."

Chronic rhinosinusitis affects about 11% of U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition can necessitate treatment over a span of years, typically involving antibiotics. Repeated cycles of inflammation and repair thicken sinus tissues, much like calloused skin. Surgery may resolve the issue, but symptoms also can recur.

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The researchers identified a study cohort from the Human Connectome Project, an open-access, brain-focused…
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