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Chronic Pain Could Lead To Brain Dysfunction

By Daniel H. Rasolt

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008

(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- People suffering from chronic pain are often effected in many neurological functions and behaviors. This includes sleeping, depression, decision making and anxiety. A recent Northwestern University study is believed to have discovered the reason for this connection.

According to the study, "in a healthy brain all the regions exist in a state of equilibrium. When one region is active, the others quiet down." In contrast, for individuals suffering from chronic pain, a certain region at the front of the brain does not deactivate when it should, leading to abnormal and deficient neurological behavior and potential permanent harm.

Magnetic Resonance Images (MRIs) were taken of the brains of patients with chronic back problems, and of volunteers with no history of chronic pain problems. Behavior and lifestyle questions were answered by both groups, displaying sleeping and psychological problems in chronic pain patients. Simple tasks related to brain functions, such as tracking a moving bar on a computer screen,  were given to each group to perform, and the chronic pain group displayed a clear difference in their brain functions during the tasks, though they eventually completed them sufficiently.

The observation of the continuous activation of the particular brain region was seen independent of pain events in the patients, meaning that these neurological issues are nearly always present for chronic pain patients, not just when they are specifically hurting. " This constant firing of neurons in these regions of the brain could cause permanent damage," said study author Dante Chialvo.

The conclusion of the study is that "it is essential to study new approaches to treat patients not just to control their pain but also to evaluate and prevent the dysfunction that may be generated in the brain by the chronic pain."

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Northwestern University News Release. "Chronic Pain Harms The Brain." February 4th 2008.

Daniel H. Rasolt writes for Defeat Diabetes® News. Read more of his original content articles.

Copyright © 2008 Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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