Pain,Brain and Depression

Pain, Brain, and Depression: It isn’t all in your head…or in your body

Have you ever had an ache that’s barely noticeable, until you start to think about it?Then the ache intensified and suddenly, the pain seems unbearable.

New studies have found that while pain isn’t “just all in your head,” the brain does have ways of influencing our perception of pain.

Is pain just all in your head?

In a new paper out of Biology Psychiatry, Chantal Berna, MD led a group of researchers from the University of Oxford, UK who looked at the effects that depression had on the perception of pain.

20 healthy volunteers listened to depressing music and were bombarded with negative thoughts.

Researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see how their brains would respond to a heat stimulus.

Following the depressed mood induction, brain responses to the heat stimulus resulted in increased perception of pain.

The MRI showed increased activity in the prefrontal areas, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the hippocampus.

These results were marked, especially when compared with significantly less activation when the volunteers were in a neutral frame of mind.

The depressed individuals who indicated the largest increase in pain perception also showed the greatest activation in the inferior frontal gyrus and the amygdala.

As you know, the amygdala is involved in the storing of emotional memories, thus linking emotional regulation and pain enhancement.

The more we know about the workings of the brain, the more we are able to tailor treatments.

The brain plays an interesting role in chronic pain, one that is discussed at length in NICABM’s teleseminar series Clinical Applications of Mind-Body Medicine: New Thinking About Stress and the Remarkable Power of Psychoneuroimmunology

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