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Chronic Pain

May 18, 2010

People with chronic pain experience pain differently than other people.


Pain’s brain drain…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

People with chronic pain process pain signals differently than most people, according to neuroscientist Vania Apkarian of Northwestern University Medical School. He and his colleagues measured the response of an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens in back pain patients and healthy controls while they were exposed to a hot, painful stimulus. The nucleus accumbens is part of the brain’s reward center.

VANIA APKARIAN (Northwestern University Medical School):
The chronic back pain patients’ own pain decreases with in the presence of the acute pain, consistent with the idea that in fact that it was subconsciously rewarding to them.

He says chronic pain also seems to activate the brain’s limbic system more so than acute pain.

Pain that’s chronic seems to become more emotional while the acute injury pain is more sensory in its qualities.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.