Scientists have captured brain signals of chronic pain for the first time. The results are a first step towards a new treatment for people with chronic pain.
The study included four patients with chronic pain caused by stroke or amputation (also known as phantom limb pain). Doctors inserted electrodes into participants’ brains. Patients also received a device with a button that they had to press as soon as they felt pain. They had to fill the strength of the pain felt.
Aided by an algorithm, the scientists analyzed the data. They discovered how to recognize the brain signal of chronic pain. For example, they discovered that acute or short-term pain produces a completely different type of brain activity. According to the researchers, this partly explains why painkillers are less effective against chronic pain.
The study could help develop new treatments for people with chronic pain. Developments for this are at an early stage. For example, studies are underway on the use of deep brain stimulation in patients with chronic pain. This treatment method, in which electrodes in the brain emit electrical signals, is currently already used for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and movement disorders, among others.
The new study was published Monday in the scientific journal Natural neuroscience.
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