A new Canadian study shows that the power of the mind can directly influence the perception of pain. The finding confirms that complimentary or alternative approaches can help alleviate or diminish pain.
In the study, scientists from Université de Montréal found that negative and positive emotions have a direct impact on pain. Their research is published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
According to lead author Mathieu Roy, “Our tests revealed when pain is perceived by our brain and how that pain can be amplified when combined with negative emotions.”
As part of the study, 13 subjects were recruited to undergo small yet painful electric shocks, which caused knee-jerk reactions controlled by the spine that could be measured.
During the fMRI process, subjects were shown a succession of images that were either pleasant (i.e. summer water-skiing), unpleasant (i.e. a vicious bear) or neutral (i.e. a book). Brain reaction was simultaneously measured in participants through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The fMRI readings allowed the scientists to divide emotion-related brain activity from pain-related reactions.
“We found that seeing unpleasant pictures elicited stronger pain in subjects getting shocks than looking at pleasant pictures,” says Dr. Roy.
The discovery provides scientific evidence that pain is governed by mood and builds on Dr. Roy’s previous studies that showed how pleasant music could decrease aches.
“Our findings show that non-pharmaceutical interventions – mood enhancers such as photography or music – could be used in health care to help alleviate pain. These interventions would be inexpensive and adaptable to several fields,” he stresses.
Source: University of Montreal