Train the Brain to Modulate Pain

It can be as effective as a shot of morphine, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The power of positive thinking extends to pain, according to researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Lowering patients' expectations of pain can reduce both pain-related brain activity and how much pain they feel, says a study published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Positive expectations produced about a 28 percent decrease in pain ratings -- equal to a shot of morphine," said lead author Dr. Tetsuo Koyama.

The study involved 10 healthy volunteers who had a heat stimulator applied to their legs while their brains were being scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technology that shows which areas of the brain are being activated.

Doctors taught the participants to expect three different level of painful stimuli after a timed interval, short intervals for low pain and long intervals for intense pain. But the researchers scrambled up the signals, so that volunteers expecting one temperature actually received a higher or lower temperature.

People expecting moderate pain who were exposed to the most severe heat level reported about 28 percent less pain than if they had been expecting it, the researchers found. All reported diminished pain intensity for lower levels of pain.

More information

For more on the topic, visit the National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University, news release, Sept. 5, 2005

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