Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Research: Pain control by force of will?

I'm still working through the prerequisites to prior authorization for Lyrica. For the last week, I've been adding nortryptaline to my Neurontin, and I'm feeling a little doped-out. It's been harder than usual to stay awake at work after 3:30 or so , I'm unable to empty my bladder completely, and I haven't noticed any decrease in pain. Next week, it will be amitryptaline.

Meanwhile, from the London Times, an article about a pain-control technique using what I think you'd call a sort of bio-feedback:
Scientists in the United States have successfully taught eight patients to reduce pain from injuries by showing them live scans of their brains while they performed a set of mental exercises. The findings, from a team at Stanford University in California, have opened up the possibilities for treating chronic pain, which often responds poorly to standard therapy and leaves patients suffering throughout their entire lives.

Dr Mackey’s team used a new scanning technique, known as real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging, to capture live images of activity in a part of the brain called the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, that handles painful stimuli. As the patients watched the scans, they undertook mental exercises designed to alter brain activity and reduce pain. The goal was to train the brain to process pain in a different way, so that the patients would experience it less severely. The scans allowed the subjects to see what effect their thoughts were having on a small region of the brain, helping them to concentrate on changing its activity.

“We asked them to think about changing the meaning of the pain,” Dr Mackey said. “Instead of thinking of it as a terrible experience, to think of it as something relatively pleasant.” Over time, subjects showed an increased ability to modulate their pain. The study suggests that it may be possible to train people to change the way in which the pain centres of the brain process painful stimuli, making the perception of pain less intense.


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