Hope and Possibility

Brain Research

The following is a synopsis of articles that speak to the role of the brain in chronic pain:

1) Researcher at University of Toronto maps areas of the brain between health and disease afflicted subjects to find the areas of the brain that are inactive in those with disease. Through deep brain stimulation with electrodes they can recalibrate the activity in the brain to resolve the symptoms. See TedX talk here.

2) The Pain Lab at Stanford University has completed a study which maps areas of the brain that are involved when an individual experiences chronic pain, see here. Future studies are looking at teaching patients techniques how to better control their pain and measuring effectiveness through brain imaging, see here.

3) Mirror therapy has been shown to be helpful for those in early stages of RSD/CRPS. It is part of a three stage program called Graded Motor Imagery. This program helps rebuild the brain’s ability to carry out motor movements with the injured limb and can increase functionality for the affected limb. See the whole program here.

4) Northwestern University Feinburg School of Medicine shows chronic pain alters how the brain works. Over time some areas of the brain cannot turn off and this ultimately affects other parts of the brain functioning, see here.

5) Chronic pain sends continuous signals to the brain that there is still something wrong/painful occurring, often without a stimulus to elicit the pain. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has a full set of resources on its page about Chronic pain, but also describes the structure of the Central Nervous System (CNS) so individuals can understand the role of the spinal cord and the brain in pain transmission.

6) Research by Dr. Apkarian at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine suggests the brain is hard-wired for chronic pain. Changes in a patient’s white matter composure could be used to predict whether they would recover or continue to have persistent pain, see article here.

7) Pain medicine Physician Phillip J Siddall from Greenwich Hospital in Sydney, Australia states that neuroplasticity provides hope for the treatment of pain. Even though the brain is maladaptive when pain first presents itself, there is still reason to believe the brain can overcome these maladaptive tendencies if the pain is addressed at multiple levels, see here.

8) Studies from Northwestern University show that an impaired hippocampus could be a potential reason for difficulty with memory and mood in patients with chronic back pain and  with complex regional pain syndrome. Stimulating neuronal growth in the hippocampus could be helpful in the future.Full article is here.