Where does it hurt? Pain map discovered in the human brain
(Phys.org)—Scientists have revealed the minutely detailed pain map of the hand that is contained within our brains, shedding light on how the brain makes us feel discomfort and potentially increasing our understanding of the processes involved in chronic pain.
The map, uncovered by scientists at UCL, is the first to reveal how finely-tuned the brain is to pain. Published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study uses fMRI techniques in conjunction with laser stimuli to the fingers to plot the exact response to pain across areas of the brain.
"The results reveal that pain can be finely mapped in the brain," said lead author Dr Flavia Mancini (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). "While many studies have examined the brain response to pain before, our study is the first to map pain responses for the individual digits of the human hand."
Using an fMRI brain imaging technique originally created to map the visual field, the researchers were able to distinguish the brain's responses to painful laser heat stimuli on each finger in seven healthy participants, and to study their organisation in the brain.
This enabled the team to produce a fine-grained map showing how pain in the right hand results in certain parts of the brain being activated in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area in the left hemisphere of the brain which is involved in processing bodily information.
When comparing this pain map to ones generated by non-painful touch to the right hand, the researchers found that the two were very similar, with each map aligning with one another in each of the seven volunteers tested.
"The cells in the skin that respond to pain and the cells that respond to touch have very different structures and distributions, so we were surprised to find that the maps of pain and of touch were so similar in the brain," said Dr Mancini. "The striking alignment of pain and touch maps suggests powerful interactions between the two systems."
The pain maps could be used to provide markers for the location of pain in the human brain, enabling clinicians to see how patients' brains reorganise following chronic pain.
"We know that the organisation of other sensory maps in the brain is altered in patients with chronic pain," said Professor Patrick Haggard (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). "Our method could next be used to track the reorganisation of brain maps that occurs in chronic pain, providing new insights into how the brain makes us feel pain. Therefore, measuring the map for pain itself is highly important."
Journal reference: Journal of Neuroscience
Provided by University College London
- Crossing your arms relieves pain May 20, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Reduce pain with a 'visual trick' Feb 10, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- New imaging technique captures brain activity in patients with chronic low back pain Jul 27, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Treatment of chronic low back pain can reverse abnormal brain activity and function May 17, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Negative emotions influence brain activity during anticipation and experience of pain Sep 19, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Why is zone 1 in liver more prone to ischemic injury?
May 23, 2013 Hi, Is it because around central vein, there is only deoxygenated blood from the vein where as in the periphery there is hepatic artery. Also why...
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
May 22, 2013 As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
New research presented today shows that formation of new neurons in the hippocampus - a brain region known for its importance in learning and remembering - could cause forgetting of old memories by causing a reorganization ...
Neuroscience 7 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0
How can healthy people who hear voices help schizophrenics? Finding the answer for this is at the centre of research conducted at the University of Bergen.
Neuroscience 8 hours ago | 4 / 5 (2) | 2
One of the major frontiers of modern science is a comprehensive understanding of the human brain and its functions to guide the development of new technologies in information and communication. In a major announcement for ...
Neuroscience 8 hours ago | 1 / 5 (1) | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Regulating the distribution of power in neurons is done by a system that makes the national electric grid look simple by comparison. Each neuron has several thousand mitochondria confined ...
Neuroscience 23 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (9) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—The human brain is able to identify individuals' voices by comparing them against an internal 'average voice' prototype, according to neuroscientists.
Neuroscience May 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 3 |
(Medical Xpress)—A new study by researchers in the US has shown that an ancient virus can be modified to help in the fight against the simian immunodeficiency virus SIV, which is the equivalent in monkeys ...
8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Two mutations central to the development of infantile myofibromatosis (IM)—a disorder characterized by multiple tumors involving the skin, bone, and soft tissue—may provide new therapeutic targets, according to researchers ...
2 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Women at a particular stage in their monthly menstrual cycle may be more vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects associated with stressful experiences, according to a study from UCL.
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Biological processes are generally based on events at the molecular and cellular level. To understand what happens in the course of infections, diseases or normal bodily functions, scientists would need to ...
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Talking on a hands-free device while behind the wheel can lead to a sharp increase in errors that could imperil other drivers on the road, according to new research from the University of Alberta.
2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Patients with diabetes who are depressed are much more likely to develop episodes of dangerously low blood sugars, or hypoglycemia, than are those who are not depressed, a new study has ...
9 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |