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Feeling the Pain of Others – Literally

Feeling the Pain of Others — Literally

New research finds that some people really can feel pain when they watch something painful happen to others.

Investigators say this is true especially among people suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a disabling chronic pain disorder in a limb.

In CPRS patients, both own movements and just observing other persons’ movements may aggravate the pain.

When you hurt yourself, pain receptors in the body send signals to different parts of the brain. As the result, you experience pain.

Researchers in Aalto University, Finland, found that when CRPS patients feel pain caused by observing other person’s movements, their brains display abnormal activation in many such areas that respond to normal physical pain.

Thus, the pain that the CRPS patients felt during movement observation presented similarities to the “normal” pain associated with tissue damage.

Investigators note that CPRS is a very complex disease with devastating chronic pain. Its pathophysiology is incompletely understood and definitive biomarkers are lacking.

The discovery may help to develop diagnostics and therapeutic strategies for CRPS patients, said neurologist Jaakko Hotta, M.D., of Aalto University.

In the study, the researchers analyzed functional magnetic resonance images from 13 upper-limb CRPS patients and 13 healthy control subjects who were viewing brief videos of hand actions, such as a hand squeezing a ball with maximum force.

In the CPRS patients, watching hand actions was associated with abnormal brain activation patterns and a pattern-classification analysis differentiated the patients from the healthy subjects.

These findings indicate that CRPS affects brain areas related to both pain processing and motor control.

Source: Aalto University

Feeling the Pain of Others — Literally

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Feeling the Pain of Others — Literally. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/12/01/feeling-the-pain-of-others-literally/113278.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Dec 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Dec 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.