Scientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered a clue that may help explain why chronic pain patients also often suffer with sleep disorders, depression, difficulty making decisions, etc.
In a healthy brain, the various regions of the brain all exist in a state of equilibrium – when one region is activated, the others become quiet. Researchers found, however, that in chronic pain patients, some areas don’t deactivate when they should. Particularly affected seemed to be a front region of the cortex that is mostly associated with emotion.
In essence, regions of the brain get stuck on full throttle, constantly firing neurons. Since neurons cannot sustain such high activity for so long, they eventually alter their connections with other neurons or wear out and die, causing permanent damage.
Needless to say, more research needs to be done to better understand the effects of chronic pain on the brain and to find ways to prevent the damage and dysfunction. If you would like to read more about this study and see images comparing a healthy brain to the brain of a chronic pain patient, read the full article at ScienceDaily.
Source: Northwestern University (2008, February 6). Chronic Pain Harms The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080205171755.htm
Published On: February 18, 2008