Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rein for pain lays mainly in the brain, Stanford researchers find

13.12.2005


Chronic pain sufferers may be able to reduce pain levels by studying their own live brain images, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine report in a new study.



With training and the use of high-tech imaging equipment, subjects were able to influence their pain by controlling activity in one of the pain centers of the brain through the use of mental exercises and by visualizing their own brain activity in real time.

Compare it to exercising your muscles in a top-of-the-line weight room. After repeated practice, you get better at it.


The scientists are hopeful the new technique may have potential for future use as long-term treatment for chronic pain patients - possibly even without all the high-tech equipment. They caution that significantly more work is needed before it can be thought of as a clinical treatment.

"We believe these subjects and patients really learned to control their brain and, through that, their pain," said Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesia and co-author of the study to be published in the Dec. 12 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study posed two questions: "Can healthy subjects and patients with chronic pain learn to control activity in specific regions of their brain? And, in doing so, does this lead to an improved control of their pain?" The answer to both was a resounding "Yes." A second, larger study is under way to test the potential for long-term use in future therapy.

"Pain has a huge impact on individual patients, their families and society," said Mackey, who is also associate director of Stanford’s pain management division. A recent national survey showed that more than half of all Americans suffer from chronic pain. "I got incredibly jazzed by the results [of the imaging study]," Mackey added. "We could change people’s lives. However, significantly more science and testing must be done before this can be considered a treatment for chronic pain."

Using new technology called real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging, or rtfMRI, scientists placed subjects inside an MRI scanner where they were able to watch their brain activity on a moment-by-moment basis. The subjects were then shown "live" action images of their rostral anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain responsible for processing pain.

Subjects were given various mental strategies to try to change their brain activity. "As an example, we asked them to think about changing the meaning of the pain," Mackey said.

"Instead of thinking of it as a terrible experience, to think of it as something relatively pleasant. Then the patients were turned loose. Over time, subjects showed an increased ability to change their brain and by doing so to modulate their pain."

How did they do it exactly? "We really don’t know, but then we really don’t know how anyone controls their brain to perform an action," Mackey said.

Laura Tibbitt, 31, one of the subjects in the study who suffers from chronic back pain caused by a horseback riding accident seven years ago, said she used different thoughts to decrease the pain while watching her "brain on pain."

"I’d think of little people on my back digging out the pain, or I’d think of snowflakes," she said. "The goal was to exercise your brain, to retrain your brain. Sometimes I felt like I had made a change in my brain. The pain was never completely gone, but it was better."

Mackey said extensive controls were used in the study to make sure the results reflected a direct correlation between brain imaging and pain control.

"One of the questions that always comes up is, ’Did we just design the world’s most expensive placebo?’ " Mackey said. Researchers used multiple control groups to ensure against this: The first remained outside the MRI machine; the second received no imaging feedback; the third was shown different areas of the brain that don’t process pain, and members of the fourth group were shown someone else’s brain activity.

None of these control subjects showed an ability to control pain levels.

"Real-time functional neuroimaging is a wonderful tool for investigating the neurosystems in the brain responsible for the perception and processing of pain," Mackey said. "It allows us to do that in ways that we’ve never been able to before."

The study, which included 36 healthy subjects and eight subjects with chronic pain, was co-sponsored by researcher Christopher deCharms and his Bay Area company, Omneuron Inc. It was co-funded by the National Institutes of Health and Stanford University. Mackey and his Stanford collaborators have no financial ties to the company. Other Stanford researchers involved in the study include Fumiko Maeda, MD, PhD, research associate; Gary Glover, PhD, professor of radiology, and John Pauly, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering. Former Stanford collaborators include David Ludlow, Deepak Soneji and John Gabrieli.

Tracie White | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>