Chronic Pain Sufferers Have Different Brain Wiring

September 20, 2013 7:56 am 0 comments

images-1The likelihood that short term pain will become long term pain may depend on the wiring of your brain. Or, the wiring of your brain may depend on the extent of your chronic pain. That less-than-definitive news comes from researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, where doctors conducted regular brain scans over the course of one year on 46 subjects who had experienced a first episode of back pain that had already lasted four to 16 weeks. The Los Angeles Times reports that the researchers found that within two months of recruiting patients, discernible differences in the structure of “white matter” could distinguish subjects whose pain persisted from those whose pain was beginning to resolve. The Times reports that by the 12-month mark, the structural differences in white matter allowed researchers to distinguish — without error — subjects whose pain had disappeared from those whose pain was persistent. Compared to subjects whose pain resolved, subjects whose pain would become chronic also showed differences in the density of connections that lashed their nucleus accumbens — a central structure in the brain rewards, motivation, pleasure and reinforcement learning circuit — together with their medial prefrontal cortex, a switchboard for decision-making, emotional response and long-term memory. Wait, there’s more. As time passed, the white matter and brain connections of subjects with back pain that went away looked much more like those of healthy control subjects than they did like the brains of subjects whose pain became chronic. The researchers have yet to answer the big question: did the chronic pain cause the brain structure to change or did the brain structure cause the pain to become chronic? Yes, reader, it hurts, but more research is needed.

Leave a Reply


Recent Posts

  • Fitness Pain For Torn Meniscus, Try Exercise Before Surgery

    For Torn Meniscus, Try Exercise Before Surgery

    Many doctors, mainly orthopedic surgeons, would like us to think that surgical repair is the best fix for a torn meniscus, and for some particularly large tears, that may be true. But now comes a study from orthopedic surgeons at Martina Hansens Hospital in Sandvika, Norway, which tracked outcomes for 140 meniscal tear patients, half of whom had surgery and half of whom did knee exercises three times a week for three months. HealthDay reports that after two years, pain, […]

    Read more →
  • Pain Women's Health 40 Percent Of Sunscreens Don’t Cut It

    40 Percent Of Sunscreens Don’t Cut It

    The seasonal advice “Don’t forget the sunscreen” should be amended this year to “Don’t forget the sunscreen that actually works,” a category that includes only 60 percent of the top-selling sunscreens. How do we know? Because when researchers at Northwestern University looked at the top rated 1 percent of the 6,500 sunscreens with four or more stars sold on Amazon.com, they found that about 40 percent of them don’t meet the American Academy of Dermatology’s guidelines for sunscreens, mainly because of a […]

    Read more →
  • Fitness Pain Exercise Does More For Some Than For Others

    Exercise Does More For Some Than For Others

    Life isn’t fair, and neither, apparently, is exercise: it appears to help some people more than others. Researchers at Brown University analyzed the results of 160 clinical trials of the cardiometabolic benefits of exercise showing which health indicators improve most with physical activity and for whom. Who were the winners? Men, people under 50, and people battling type 2 diabetes or other cardiovascular conditions. A Brown University news release reports that the researchers also found that while exercise appears to affect […]

    Read more →
  • Pain Women's Health Exercise Improves Memory of Breast Cancer Survivors

    Exercise Improves Memory of Breast Cancer Survivors

    Many breast cancer survivors have trouble remembering things, a problem that researchers attribute to stress, rather than to chemotherapy or radiation. Now comes research from Northwestern University linking physical activity to higher levels of self-confidence, lower distress and less fatigue, which in turn is associated with lower levels of perceived memory impairment. A Northwestern news release reports that when investigators looked at memory and exercise in breast cancer survivors in two studies: one in self-reported data for 1,477 women across […]

    Read more →
  • Pain Sex Another Attempt To Predict Lethal Prostate Cancer

    Another Attempt To Predict Lethal Prostate Cancer

    Someday medical experts will figure out what everyone wants to figure out about prostate cancer: how to distinguish aggressive, life-threatening cancer from indolent, unusual cell growth that will harmlessly hang around until something else kills you first. On recent attempt at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital has persuaded researchers that measuring PSA levels in younger men (between the ages of 40 and 59) could predict future risk of lethal prostate cancer later in life. Science Daily reports on the research, […]

    Read more →
  • Eating Well Pain Chronic Fatigue: It’s In Your Gut

    Chronic Fatigue: It’s In Your Gut

    After years of doubt about whether the condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome is really a syndrome, researchers have identified biological markers of the disease in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood of chronic fatigue sufferers. A Cornell University news release reports that researchers at the school correctly diagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome in 83 percent of patients through stool samples and blood work. When researchers sequenced regions of microbial DNA from the stool samples they found that […]

    Read more →
  • Attitude Pain Stressed? Make Some Art

    Stressed? Make Some Art

    Feeling stressed? Paint a picture, even a bad picture. Researchers at Drexel University are convinced that making art, pretty much any art, reduces the stress hormones in our bodies. Most of the time.  A Drexel news release reports that the researchers studied 39 adults, ranging from 18 to 59 years old, who participated in 45 minutes of art-making. Cortisol levels were taken before and after the art-making period. The participants, half of whom had no real experience making art, were given markers […]

    Read more →
  • Attitude Pain How You Argue And What It Means For Your Health

    How You Argue And What It Means For Your Health

    How you argue says a lot about how your health will fare, according to research recently conducted at UC Berkeley. A Berkeley news release warns that people who rage with frustration during a marital spat are likely to develop high blood pressure, and those who keep a stiff upper lip may experience musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles. The study, based on 20 years of research, found that the link between emotions and health outcomes was most […]

    Read more →