Chronic Pain Harms The Brain

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by gapsych, Jun 11, 2008.

  1. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    Chronic Pain Harms The Brain

    ScienceDaily (Feb. 6, 2008) — People with unrelenting pain don't only suffer from the non-stop sensation of throbbing pain. They also have trouble sleeping, are often depressed, anxious and even have difficulty making simple decisions.

    In a new study, investigators at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine have identified a clue that may explain how suffering long-term pain could trigger these other pain-related symptoms.

    Researchers found that in a healthy brain all the regions exist in a state of equilibrium. When one region is active, the others quiet down. But in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex mostly associated with emotion "never shuts up," said Dante Chialvo, lead author and associate research professor of physiology at the Feinberg School. "The areas that are affected fail to deactivate when they should."

    They are stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections to each other.

    This is the first demonstration of brain disturbances in chronic pain patients not directly related to the sensation of pain.

    Chialvo and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of people with chronic low back pain and a group of pain-free volunteers while both groups were tracking a moving bar on a computer screen. The study showed the pain sufferers performed the task well but "at the expense of using their brain differently than the pain-free group," Chialvo said.

    When certain parts of the cortex were activated in the pain-free group, some others were deactivated, maintaining a cooperative equilibrium between the regions. This equilibrium also is known as the resting state network of the brain. In the chronic pain group, however, one of the nodes of this network did not quiet down as it did in the pain-free subjects.

    This constant firing of neurons in these regions of the brain could cause permanent damage, Chialvo said. "We know when neurons fire too much they may change their connections with other neurons and or even die because they can't sustain high activity for so long," he explained.

    'If you are a chronic pain patient, you have pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every minute of your life," Chialvo said. "That permanent perception of pain in your brain makes these areas in your brain continuously active. This continuous dysfunction in the equilibrium of the brain can change the wiring forever and could hurt the brain."
    Chialvo hypothesized the subsequent changes in wiring "may make it harder for you to make a decision or be in a good mood to get up in the morning. It could be that pain produces depression and the other reported abnormalities because it disturbs the balance of the brain as a whole."

    He said his findings show it is essential to study new approaches to treat patients not just to control their pain but also to evaluate and prevent the dysfunction that may be generated in the brain by the chronic pain.

    The study will be published Feb. 6 in The Journal of Neuroscience. Chialvo's collaborators in this project are Marwan Baliki, a graduate student; Paul Geha, a post-doctoral fellow, and Vania Apkarian, professor of physiology and of anesthesiology, all at the Feinberg School.

  2. hermitlady

    hermitlady Member

    Thanks for posting this for me. I really believe my brain is fried from the pain. I am so depressed now and it won't let up even w med changes.

    All the brain can deal with it seems is the pain and everything else goes haywire...that's how I feel right now. I'm afraid what everyday might bring, I've been crying so much the last couple of wks and it gets scary sometimes. I've been severely depressed and hospitalized in the past and I don't want to go there again!
  3. kriket

    kriket New Member

    I am glad u posted this and I certainly believe that dealing with constant pain does do a number on your brain as it rarely gets to rest. When u are constanlty fighting pain how can any part of you rest. Good Article!!!

  4. katiebug61

    katiebug61 New Member

    Chronic pain wears a person OUT. It just never lets up and it is hard to concentrate on anything else. Unless you have experienced it, you can't totally understand it. I can understand why people in pain all the time are grumpy and depressed. It seems there isn't a day when I am totally pain free. I have just learned that if I am not hurting much, then it is a good day. This website is awesome and I am so glad I found it. We just have to keep on hanging in there and take it one day at a time.
  5. willruthie1965

    willruthie1965 New Member

    We should show our doctors this. Ruthie
  6. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

  7. ephemera

    ephemera New Member

    more bumping