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Bad Mood May Make Pain Worse

Emotions and pain are closely connected, researchers find

FRIDAY, Nov. 13, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- If you're trying to get your mind off pain, think of something pleasant.

That's the conclusion of Canadian researchers who have linked mood to pain.

"Emotions or mood can alter how we react to pain since they're interlinked," Mathieu Roy, lead author of the new study and a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University in New York City, said in a statement. "Our tests revealed when pain is perceived by our brain and how that pain can be amplified when combined with negative emotions."

While at the University of Montreal, Roy and colleagues exposed 13 subjects to painful electric shocks. The shocks caused knee-jerk reactions that the researchers could measure.

As they felt the shocks, the subjects looked at pleasant, unpleasant and neutral images. At the same time, researchers examined their brain activity through functional MRI scans.

"We found that seeing unpleasant pictures elicited stronger pain in subjects getting shocks than looking at pleasant pictures," Roy said.

The research seems to confirm previous research by Roy that revealed that pleasant music can make people feel less discomfort from 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 said.

The findings were published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

Learn more about pain from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: University of Montreal, news release, Nov. 10, 2009
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