Pain Affects Different Parts of the Brain

Different pains in the body affect different parts of the brain, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (November 2006).

Researchers at Northwestern University Medical Center in Chicago asked for volunteers with chronic back pain to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of their brains. Patients self-rated their pain during the procedure.

During times of sustained pain, nerve activity in the brain's medial prefrontal cortex increased. Activity in this part of the brain has been associated with negative emotions, emotional memories, and self-image.

Another experiment had researchers putting a hot probe on to the backs of patients with chronic back pain. Brain activity was recorded, and the data showed that activity was high in the insula, an area of the brain associated with acute pain.

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