the pain, the pain

People feel pain differently, and brain scans prove it, Robert Coghill of Wake Forest University and his colleagues reported last week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their experiment, the researchers put a heating pad on volunteers’ legs to heat their skin to an uncomfortable 120 degrees Fahrenheit as they scanned the subjects’ brains. They then asked them to rate the pain on a scale from one to 10. The least-sensitive subject rated the pain a “one,” and the most sensitive, “almost nine.” The people who reported higher levels of pain showed increased activation in the primary somatosensory cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, regions of the brain involved in the perception and processing of pain, whereas those who said the pain was minimal showed little activation of those areas. Coghill, in a press release, stated: “These findings confirm that self-reports of pain intensity are highly correlated to brain activation and that self-reports should guide treatment of pain.”

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 7/01/2003.
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