Brain Scan-I Feel Your Pain

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I just read an article about a brain scanner that may be able to help assess pain.

“The definition of pain is that it is subjective, and until now an objective measurement has remained elusive,” says Morten Kringelbach of the University of Oxford.”

As I have read before, the author points out that functional MRI scans have been used before to identify brain areas that “light up” when someone is in pain.  I was excited about this news when I first read it until I found out results varied from patient to patient.

I have never read about  analysing arterial spin labelling that  measures how much oxygenated blood is flowing through particular areas of the brain.

The procedure seems interesting but their participants for the study were 16 young men who had just  had their wisdom teeth removed not chronic pain patients.

Perhaps it will provide an additional way to assess pain in addition to the well-known “pain scale” which I agree with the author is an ” inadequate measure of pain”.

I’m not sure that identifying which areas of the brain are involved in a person’s brain will lead to personalized treatments that target those areas until we have drugs that are better able to target specific areas of the brain for treatment. Of  course physicians are learning more and more about which drugs work in certain areas.  For instance, methadone works better for central pain.

As the article points out, there are challenges because responses to pain do vary throughout the day and there will be differences in the level of brain activation in one person to the other.  Pain is still a complex issue and there is still much to be learned about pain syndromes.  Emotions affect pain and now physicians are learning that chronic pain can spread like a cancer and “glob on” to various emotional responses.

Jeffrey Mogil brings up the possibility of the brain scan being used to measure pain in people who are locked in and who are in a vegetative state.  I’ve been doing some research about this phenomena of being “locked in” because of my frontotemporal dementia.  I wonder what I will be able to feel once I am no longer able to communicate and no one is able communicate with me.

This is a picture of New Scientist Magazine.  I have found some really interesting articles in this publication.

In the article, “Coghill warns against disregarding someone’s description of pain in favour of an objective measure. In the US, insurance companies would jump on an objective method of measuring pain, but this could mean that certain people with different patterns of activation lose out,” he says. “We need to ensure that patients are never in a position where they are denied treatment.”

The idea that insurance companies might want to jump on the band wagon to use this tool to deny chronic pain patients treatments and meds is a real possibility as those of us with chronic pain know all too well.

The last part of the article discusses whether pain is a symptom or a disease.  After much research and many discussions with a very intelligent pain management doctor who is always “up” on the latest research, I have concluded that pain is not just a symptom but a disease.  Remember about the finding I discussed earlier how in chronic pain, these pain signals latch on to all sorts of neurological responses?

The researchers mentioned in the article agree that  chronic pain is associated with functional, structural and chemical changes in the brain which redefines pain as a disease.

Let’s hope that further research continues to validate that chronic pain in reality is a complex disease that needs to be treated.  It affects the lives of millions of people all over the world.

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3 Responses to “Brain Scan-I Feel Your Pain”

  1. Derick Kubicki Says:

    There are some attention-grabbing cut-off dates on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity but I’ll take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish more! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

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