Monday, December 14, 2009

Modulation of our pain by emotions - cerebral and spinal sites

Our response to painful stimulation can be modulated by the emotional impact of viewing a pleasant or an unpleasant picture.  In an open access article, Roy et. al.  view the multiple sites associated with this effect - noting the central role of the right insula - by doing brain imaging of participants who received painful electric shocks while they viewed blocks of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral pictures.:
Emotions have powerful effects on pain perception. However, the brain mechanisms underlying these effects remain largely unknown. In this study, we combined functional cerebral imaging with psychophysiological methods to explore the neural mechanisms involved in the emotional modulation of spinal nociceptive responses (RIII-reflex) and pain perception in healthy participants. Emotions induced by pleasant or unpleasant pictures modulated the responses to painful electrical stimulations in the right insula, paracentral lobule, parahippocampal gyrus, thalamus, and amygdala. Right insula activation covaried with the modulation of pain perception, consistent with a key role of this structure in the integration of pain signals with the ongoing emotion. In contrast, activity in the thalamus, amygdala, and several prefrontal areas was associated with the modulation of spinal reflex responses. Last, connectivity analyses suggested an involvement of prefrontal, parahippocampal, and brainstem structures in the cerebral and cerebrospinal modulation of pain by emotions. This multiplicity of mechanisms underlying the emotional modulation of pain is reflective of the strong interrelations between pain and emotions, and emphasizes the powerful effects that emotions can have on pain.

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