Tag Archives: neuroscience

Treating chronic pain can restore normal brain function

Effective Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain in Humans Reverses Abnormal Brain Anatomy and Function | Journal of Neuroscience – Free full-text article – May 2011

Though also not new, this study is a follow up on an earlier post: Brain abnormalities are Consequence Not Cause of pain (2009). The article below contains dozens of links to further information.


Chronic pain is associated with reduced brain gray matter and impaired cognitive ability.

In this longitudinal study, we assessed whether neuroanatomical and functional abnormalities were reversible and dependent on treatment outcomes.     Continue reading

Brain abnormalities are Consequence Not Cause of pain

Brain Gray Matter Decrease in Chronic Pain Is the Consequence and Not the Cause of Pain | Journal of Neuroscience Nov 2009

If you can reverse brain “damage” by effectively treating the patient’s chronic pain, it seems pretty clear that the chronic pain was the cause.

This means we don’t have to accept the idea that abnormalities in our brains are what’s causing our pain (which some have hinted at).

Recently, local morphologic alterations of the brain in areas ascribable to the transmission of pain were reported in patients suffering from chronic pain.

Although some authors discussed these findings as damage or loss of brain gray matter, one of the key questions is whether these structural alterations in the cerebral pain-transmitting network precede or succeed the chronicity of pain.   Continue reading

The Involvement of Epigenetics in Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain: Emerging Evidence for the Involvement of Epigenetics – free full-text /PMC3996727/ – Apr 2013


Epigenetic processes, such as histone modifications and DNA methylation, have been associated with many neural functions including synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory.

Here, we critically examine emerging evidence linking epigenetic mechanisms to the development or maintenance of chronic pain states.

Although in its infancy, research in this area potentially unifies several pathophysiological processes underpinning abnormal pain processing and opens up a different avenue for the development of novel analgesics.   Continue reading

Problems with Neuroimaging for Chronic Pain

Neuroimaging for Chronic Pain: IASP Consensus Statement – by 

health and disability insurance companies seek methods to confirm the pain status of beneficiaries to corroborate self-report, which is the current gold standard for pain assessment in clinical and research settings.

All parts of our health system (and its interface to the legal and financial systems) have difficulties with self-reported symptoms because they are all based on numerical values that are independently verifiable.

A blood test or x-ray taken by your doctor will not yield significant differences from the ones taken by your insurance company or lawyer, so these are seen as “factual evidence”.   Continue reading

Neurobiological basis for pain vulnerability

Neurobiological basis for pain vulnerability: why me? – Franziska Denk; Stephen McMahon – Apr 2017


A great deal of mechanistic work conducted in pain research is concerned with answering the question of why a certain stimulus should be perceived as painful or how the nervous system in a chronic pain state differs from the healthy norm.

In these kinds of studies, individual differences in perception are usually seen as a nuisancea distraction from any “real signal.”

Yet, these differences are very significant to the individuals, even if they aren’t near the average. These”distractions” Continue reading

Persistent Microglial Alterations in a Model of Chronic Pain

Persistent Alterations in Microglial Enhancers in a Model of Chronic Pain: Cell Reports – May 2016

This is an extremely technical study indicating that the nervous system is chronically dysregulated in neuropathic pain.


  • We examined the spinal cord immune response in a model of neuropathic pain
  • No infiltration of peripheral macrophages could be detected
  • RNA-seq of isolated microglia revealed a transient transcriptional response
  • ChIP-seq revealed persistent, injury-induced alterations of microglial enhancers

Continue reading

Personality differences from intra‐cortical myelin levels

People With Advantageous Personality Traits Have More Nerve-Fibre Insulation (Myelination) In Key Brain Areas – By Christian Jarrett – Jan 2019

I’ve always wondered why a physical defect of connective tissue, as we have with EDS, is linked to anxiety (my life’s greatest plague after pain). This article shows that a lack of good insulation (myelin) around brain neurons can lead to distinct negative personality traits.

Researchers are getting closer to understanding the neurological basis of personality. For a new paper in the Journal of Personality, Nicola Toschi and Luca Passamonti took advantage of a recent technological breakthrough that makes it possible to use scans to estimate levels of myelination in different brain areas (until fairly recently this could only be done at postmortem).

This makes me wonder if our defective connective tissue might also lead to defective insulation around our neurons, allowing some signals to “leak” to adjacent areas. Could that explain my general “mood instability” as well? Continue reading

Oxytocin – A Multifunctional Analgesic

Oxytocin – A Multifunctional Analgesic for Chronic Deep Tissue Pain – free full-text /PMC4276444/ – Jan 2015


The treatment of chronic pain arising from deep tissues is currently inadequate and there is need for new pharmacological agents to provide analgesia

The endogenous paracrine hormone/neurotransmitter oxytocin is intimately involved in the modulation of multiple physiological and psychological functions. Recent experiments have given clear evidence for a role of oxytocin in the modulation of nociception.

The present article reviews the existent human and basic science data related to the direct and indirect effects of oxytocin on pain   Continue reading

Opinion | How to Be More Resilient

Opinion | How to Be More Resilient – The New York Times – By Richard A. Friedman – Dec 2018

Some people are just genetically tougher. But you can train your brain to better handle stress.

As a psychiatrist, I’ve long wondered why some people get ill in the face of stress and adversity — either mentally or physically — while others rarely succumb.

Dr. Akil discovered that there are brain molecules that endow us with resilience.   Continue reading

Scientists Find Brain Cells That Make Pain Hurt

Scientists Find Brain Cells That Make Pain Hurt – by Jonathan Lambert – Jan 2019

Pain is a complicated experience. Our skin and muscles sense it, just like they sense softness or warmth. But unlike other sensations, the experience of pain is distinctly unpleasant.

Pain has to hurt for us to pay attention to it, and avoid hurting ourselves further. But for people in chronic pain, the pain has largely lost its purpose. It just hurts.

This “pain without cause” is incredibly frustrating to deal with. Often, no one else can believe you’re really hurting. Sometimes it’s driven me to the point of thinking I must be crazy because I felt pain “for no reason”.   Continue reading