Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain Imaging Confirms That People Feel Pain Differently

Date:
June 24, 2003
Source:
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Summary:
Brain imaging confirms that some individuals really are more sensitive to pain than others, report researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in this week's on-line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Brain imaging confirms that some individuals really are more sensitive to pain than others, report researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in this week's on-line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We have all met people who seem very sensitive to pain as well as those who appear to tolerate pain very well," said Robert C. Coghill, Ph.D., lead investigator. "Until now, there was no objective evidence that could confirm that these individual differences in pain sensitivity are, in fact, real."

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess brain function, Coghill and colleagues found that study participants who said that a heat stimulus was intensely painful had pronounced activation of brain regions that are important in pain. In contrast, people who said that the same stimulus was only mildly painful had minimal activation of these same areas.

"One of the most difficult aspects of treating pain has been having confidence in the accuracy of patients' self-reports of pain," said Coghill, an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy. "These findings confirm that self-reports of pain intensity are highly correlated to brain activation and that self-reports should guide treatment of pain."

For the research, 17 normal, healthy volunteers (eight women and nine men) had a computer-controlled heat stimulator placed on their leg. While their brains were scanned, this device heated a small patch of their skin to 120 Fahrenheit, a temperature that most people find painful. However, participants reported very different experiences of pain. Using a 10-point scale, the least sensitive person rated the pain around a "one," while the most sensitive person rated the pain as almost a "nine."

People who reported higher levels of pain showed increased activation in areas of the brain important in pain: the primary somatosensory cortex, which contributes to the perception of where a painful stimulus is located on the body and how intense it is, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in the processing the unpleasant feelings evoked by pain. However, there was little difference between subjects in activation of the thalamus, which is involved in transmitting pain signals from the spinal cord to higher brain regions.

"This difference between cortical and thalamic patterns of activation may help explain pain differences between individuals," said Coghill. "This finding raises the intriguing possibility that incoming painful information is processed by the spinal cord in a generally similar manner. But, once the brain gets involved, the experience becomes very different from one individual to the next."

Coghill believes that most individual differences in pain sensitivity are probably due to a combination of cognitive factors, such as past experience with pain, emotional state at the time pain is experienced, and expectations about pain. Coghill's current projects include looking at how a person's expectations about pain influence the pain they actually experience.

Coghill's colleagues on the reported research were John McHaffie, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest, and Ye-Fen Yen, Ph.D., from University of Western Ontario.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Brain Imaging Confirms That People Feel Pain Differently." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/06/030624090043.htm>.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. (2003, June 24). Brain Imaging Confirms That People Feel Pain Differently. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/06/030624090043.htm
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Brain Imaging Confirms That People Feel Pain Differently." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/06/030624090043.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) Conjoined twins Emmett and Owen Ezell were separated by doctors in August. Now, nearly nine months later, they're being released from the hospital. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins