It’s the last thing someone in chronic pain wants to hear: “It’s all in your head.” But, new research is showing that there is some truth to that because blocking certain channels in the brain can reduce peripheral pain.
Researchers from McGill University and the MUHC published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience, showing that the channels of activity in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) can be blocked resulting in a dramatic reduction in pain.
For those with peripheral pain, like that associated with diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and others, the ACC sends incorrect signals to the pain processing centers of the brain, which is called “peripheral and central sensitization.” The channels that are targeted to block these incorrect signals are called hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels.
In the study, researchers tested lab rats by blocking HCN channels and it resulted in a dramatic reduction in over-stimulation of the ACC.
“The ACC has been shown to be a key center to cognitive functions linked to memory and affective functions involved in feelings and emotions. We know that patients who suffer from chronic pain experience impairment of their working memory, difficulties focusing on certain tasks and may suffer from depression and anxiety,” said lead author Dr. Philippe Seguela, Professor in the department of Neurology & Neurosurgery and senior author of the study.
Dr. Seguela believes the findings open doors for possible new treatment options that are linked to chronic pain, describing that the ACC is linked to feelings and emotions, and that many who suffer in chronic pain also suffer from depression and anxiety.
In related news, National Pain Report reported last week that another study links depression and anxiety to chronic pain in teens. You can read that article here.
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