Mental imagery manages pain independent of opioid system

Mental imagery manages pain independent of opioid system
Credit: Berna et al., JNeurosci (2018)

Mentally reframing pain as a pleasant experience is an effective regulation strategy that acts independently of the opioid system, finds new human research published in JNeurosci. The study supports clinical use of mental imagery techniques, such as imagining a new context or consequence of a painful event, in conjunction with pain-relieving drugs.

Chantal Berna, Siri Leknes and colleagues tested two approaches toward modulating . For a task, healthy men and women were instructed to imagine individually calibrated heat pain applied to their forearm as a pleasant experience, for example by thinking about warming up by a fire after coming in from the cold.

A relative relief task used visual cues to manipulate participants' expectations about the forthcoming heat pain. Although both tasks made the pain experience more pleasant, only the effects of the relative relief task were blocked by naloxone—the life-saving drug used to treat .

Mental imagery was unaffected by naloxone, indicating that this approach works through opioid-independent mechanisms.

More information: Chantal Berna et al, Opioid-independent and opioid-mediated modes of pain modulation, The Journal of Neuroscience (2018). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0854-18.2018

Journal information: Journal of Neuroscience

Citation: Mental imagery manages pain independent of opioid system (2018, September 10) retrieved 21 September 2023 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Altered pain processing after opioid discontinuation


Feedback to editors