Chronic pain is by definition a pain that is omnipresent and may last a life-time. A new research finding provides new hope that the perception of pain may be reduced by spinal cord stimulation.
In a small study, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that patients who have chronic pain can reduce their emotional response to the pain through electrical stimulation.
“Our initial study provides insights into the role of the brain’s emotional networks in relieving chronic pain. We are the first to show that therapeutic spinal cord stimulation can reduce the emotional connectivity and processing in certain areas of the brain in those with chronic pain,” said principal investigator Dr. Ali Rezai.
“Being able to modulate the connections between the brain areas involved in emotions and those linked to sensations may be an important mechanism involved in pain relief linked to spinal cord stimulation.”
The study results are published as the cover article and Editor’s Choice in the latest issue of the journal Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface.
Researchers studied 10 patients who were living with severe chronic leg pain who were implanted with a spinal cord stimulator to reduce their pain.
This research builds off previous findings that proposed the concept of the neuromatrix theory of pain, in which pain perception varies according to cognitive, emotional, and sensory influences.
Investigators explain that the “default mode network” (DMN) is the resting state network of the brain and plays a key role in the cognitive and emotional aspects of pain perception.
This neural network is also associated with functional connectivity hubs and brain networks. The resting DMN is abnormal in patients with chronic painful conditions, implicating the impact of such chronic conditions on areas beyond pain perception.
“By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we mapped the areas of the brain involved in pain perception and modulation. If we can understand neural networks implicated in the pathophysiology of pain, then we can develop new therapies to manage chronic persistent pain,” said first author Dr. Milind Deogaonkar.