Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Electric stimulation of brain releases powerful, opiate-like painkiller

Date:
January 2, 2013
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Researchers used electricity on certain regions in the brain of a patient with chronic, severe facial pain to release an opiate-like substance that's considered one of the body's most powerful painkillers.

Researchers used electricity on certain regions in the brain of a patient with chronic, severe facial pain to release an opiate-like substance that's considered one of the body's most powerful painkillers.

The findings expand on previous work done at the University of Michigan, Harvard University and the City University of New York where researchers delivered electricity through sensors on the skulls of chronic migraine patients, and found a decrease in the intensity and pain of their headache attacks. However, the researchers then couldn't completely explain how or why.

The current findings help explain what happens in the brain that decreases pain during the brief sessions of electricity, says Alexandre DaSilva, assistant professor of biologic and materials sciences at the U-M School of Dentistry and director of the school's Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort Lab.

In their current study, DaSilva and colleagues intravenously administered a radiotracer that reached important brain areas in a patient with trigeminal neuropathic pain (TNP), a type of chronic, severe facial pain. They applied the electrodes and electrically stimulated the skull right above the motor cortex of the patient for 20 minutes during a PET scan (positron emission tomography). The stimulation is called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

The radiotracer was specifically designed to measure, indirectly, the local brain release of mu-opioid, a natural substance that alters pain perception. In order for opiate to function, it needs to bind to the mu-opioid receptor (the study assessed levels of this receptor).

"This is arguably the main resource in the brain to reduce pain," DaSilva said. "We're stimulating the release of our (body's) own resources to provide analgesia. Instead of giving more pharmaceutical opiates, we are directly targeting and activating the same areas in the brain on which they work. (Therefore), we can increase the power of this pain-killing effect and even decrease the use of opiates in general, and consequently avoid their side effects, including addiction."

Most pharmaceutical opiates, especially morphine, target the mu-opioid receptors in the brain, DaSilva says.

The dose of electricity is very small, he says. Consider that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which is used to treat depression and other psychiatric conditions, uses amperage in the brain ranging from 200 to 1600 milliamperes (mA). The tDCS protocol used in DaSilva's study delivered 2 mA, considerably lower than ECT.

Just one session immediately improved the patient's threshold for cold pain by 36 percent, but not the patient's clinical, TNP/facial pain. This suggests that repetitive electrical stimulation over several sessions are required to have a lasting effect on clinical pain as shown in their previous migraine study, DaSilva says.

The manuscript appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The group just completed another study with more subjects, and the initial results seem to confirm the findings above, but further analysis is necessary.

Next, researchers will investigate long-term effects of electric stimulation on the brain and find specific targets in the brain that may be more effective depending on the pain condition and patients' status. For example, the frontal areas may be more helpful for chronic pain patients with depression symptoms.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marcos Fabio Dos Santos, Tiffany M. Love, Ilkka Kristian Martikainen, Thiago Dias Nascimento, Felipe Fregni, Chelsea Cummiford, Misty Dawn Deboer, Jon-Kar Zubieta, Alexandre F. M. DaSilva. Immediate Effects of tDCS on the μ-Opioid System of a Chronic Pain Patient. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2012; 3 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00093

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Electric stimulation of brain releases powerful, opiate-like painkiller." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130102104553.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2013, January 2). Electric stimulation of brain releases powerful, opiate-like painkiller. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130102104553.htm
University of Michigan. "Electric stimulation of brain releases powerful, opiate-like painkiller." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130102104553.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) A look inside Monrovia's Island Hospital, a key treatment centre in the fight against Ebola in Liberia's capital city. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) The Ebola outbreak is putting stress on first responders in Liberia. Ambulance drivers say they are struggling with chronic shortages of safety equipment and patients who don't want to go to the hospital. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Reassure Public Ebola Patient Won't Cause Outbreak

Doctors Reassure Public Ebola Patient Won't Cause Outbreak

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) After the announcement that the first U.S. patient had been diagnosed with Ebola, doctors were quick to say a U.S. outbreak is highly unlikely. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
TX Hospital Confirms Patient Admitted With Ebola

TX Hospital Confirms Patient Admitted With Ebola

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Medical officials from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital confirm they are treating a patient with the Ebola virus, the first case found in the US. (Sept. 30 Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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