Time Magazine Article talks about retraining the brain
Great Article in Time Magazine talking about chronic pain and retraining the brain. What a concept!
If the results hold, ultimately, Mackey says, retraining the brain to control the activation of pain pathways may become a powerful way of controlling pain without the dangers of addiction. "The idea is that we can specifically target particular brain regions and processes," he says. "The problem with pain pills is that they go through the entire body and manipulate regions of the brain that we don't want to manipulate."
Retraining the brain has the added advantage of exploiting a part of the pain pathway that so far hasn't been targeted much by drugmakers: its inhibitory arm. While painkilling drugs attempt to dampen already activated pain signals, says Mackey, retraining the brain involves "trying to beef up the muscles that turn down the overall pain experience."
(See the unusual mirror therapy that's helping amputees.)
That idea speaks to the brain's plasticity — the way it changes and adapts to new situations. A boxer doesn't come into the world unable to feel the pain of a punch in the nose; indeed, he feels it as acutely as anyone else. Over time, however, his pain threshold adjusts so that a punch simply hurts less. Such changes may become self-perpetuating, both for better and for worse.
This kind of resculpting of the brain is leading scientists to explore other ways to rewire the connections that lead to chronic misfiring. David Yeomans, director of pain research at Stanford, was inspired by a psychiatric treatment for bipolar disorder in which magnetic stimulation shuffles nerve networks back to a near normal state. He wondered if the same technique could be applied to pain. And indeed, in early studies, he found that concentrating magnetic fields to target deep-seated pain centers can also relieve symptoms in patients who do not respond to any other therapy.
That's important, since chronic pain may be self-perpetuating, and the sooner pain can