July 1, 2012

Brain Study Can Predict Who Gets Chronic Pain

(July 1, 2012)  "Corticostriatal functional connectivity predicts transition to chronic back pain" 

Many chronic pain sufferers resent being told by friends and family that “the pain is all in your head.”

But a new study out of Northwestern University found there is some truth behind that cliché.

Researchers found that people suffering from the same injury either recovered or developed chronic pain, depending how two sections of their brains communicated with each other.

The Northwestern study, the first longitudinal brain imaging study to track patients with a new back injury, included 40 participants with no prior history of back pain who had an episode of back pain lasting four to 16 weeks.  Brain scans were conducted on each patient during the one year study.

The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that the more two sections of the brain relating to emotional and motivational behavior “talk” to each other, the more likely the patient would develop chronic pain. Researchers were able to predict with 85 percent accuracy which participants would develop chronic pain, depending upon the level of interaction between the brain’s frontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens.