Brain makeup may foretell chronic pain
It is infuriating to chronic pain sufferers to be told their pain is in "all in the head." But a new study suggests even before a person is injured, the likelihood the resulting pain will become chronic can be predicted by examining the brain's white matter - the bundles of fatty fibers that carry electrical impulses between the brain's hemispheres.
The new research in the journal Pain, conducted by Northwestern University scientists, suggests that variations in brain structure could help identify people who, once injured, are more vulnerable to becoming chronic pain sufferers. But it will take further research to identify whether and which treatments could discourage short-term pain from settling in for a long stay.
Research has shown that chronic pain sufferers have reduced volume in the brain's gray matter - the cortical structures key to perception, movement, memory, and reasoning. Researchers also have shown that compared with those of healthy patients, the brains of chronic pain sufferers are wired differently, in ways that suggest physical sensations and emotional responses are bound more tightly together. - Los Angeles Times