Researchers Discover Chronic Pain Signals In The Brain



Researchers Discover Chronic Pain Signals In The Brain

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A recent study connected persistent discomfort to activity within the orbitofrontal cortex, a region involved in self-evaluation, handling emotions, and decision-making. The orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in emotion regulation, self-evaluation, and decision-making, was found to be linked to electrical oscillations in the study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience. 

For the first time, researchers have captured the brain’s activity while a person experiences chronic pain, opening the door for future implantable technology that could predict or even suppress pain signals.  

The recording devices were surgically inserted into four patients who had been dealing with pain for over one year and had not found any relief from drugs and Scientists recorded data a total of four individuals who had endured unabated pain in their nerves for more than a year using a pacemaker-like device that was surgically implanted into the brain. Three of the patients’ pain symptoms started following a stroke. After losing a leg, the fourth experienced so-called phantom limb discomfort.  

Patients had to rate their level of discomfort three times a day, and then they had to press a button to cause their implants to capture brain activity for 30 seconds. The devices provided information on the location of chronic pain in the brain by recording multiple times each day for up to six months. 

According to the research, these brain activity patterns may be used as biomarkers to help millions of individuals with shooting or searing chronic pain associated with a damaged nerve system receive an accurate diagnosis and effective therapy. 

As per New York Times report, Dr. Prasad Shirvalkar, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and his associates utilized electrodes in the current study to analyze the collective firing pattern of thousands of neurons nearby. The scientists discovered that specific orbitofrontal brain frequency changes were the most accurate indicators of persistent pain.

Dr. Shirvalkar noted that although patients shared that brain profile, each patient also displayed distinctive brain activity. Every patient genuinely had a unique pain fingerprint, he claimed. 

The authors of the study additionally speculated that other parts of the brain might be involved. Dr. Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon from the University of California, San Francisco, stated that “we’re only now getting started.” “This is only the first chapter.” 

Deep brain stimulation is another use for the implants. Dr. Shirvalkar and his associates are utilizing modest electrical currents to activate the brain regions close to the electrodes as part of a broader clinical trial to treat chronic pain.

The researchers hope to add two more participants, bringing the total number of participants in the trial to 20 or 30, in addition to the existing four patients already enrolled in the research project who are getting this experimental medication. Through transmitting pulses via the electrodes to adjust for any abnormal brain activity, scientists hope to alleviate patients’ residual discomfort. 


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