New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain
Written by Editor   
Thursday, May 14, 2015 12:00 AM

Chronic pain, that lasts for months and years, afflicts one out of every five people.  People who suffer from chronic pain are sometimes met with skepticism because medical tests can’t conclusively prove the existence of such discomfort, but now new methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment.  

Brain imaging from a University of Colorado scientist shows differences between long term and sudden pain. Sudden pain, such as touching a hot plate, triggers centers in the brain that govern fast action - like pulling your hand away. Pointing to MRI images, he explains that the pain signaling goes to many places in the brain at once.

In contrast, chronic pain activates brain areas tied to emotion and memories, and  to “caring.”  So when we have people experience this hot stimulus and then imagine that it’s burning your hand, bubbling, blistering, [the pain] gets worse.  But when they focused on calming images instead, such as a warm blanket on a cool day, he says the “caring” centers lit up, and the pain eased.  Your ability to work with pain, mentally, can have effects on how this system amplifies or diminishes pain.