Can brain circuitry research lead to better pain management?
Pain causes changes in the brain's circuits that can't be seen with today's tools, says HealthMakers Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, director of the NINDS. Here, he shares why developing ways to detect and measure pain activity in the brain is so important.
You look in the brain of somebody with pain, there's nothing to see. It's a circuit abnormality. And we don't have the tools to measure the circuit,
so we don't really have an objective measure of pain at all. [MUSIC PLAYING]
It is a circuit abnormality for sure. We just have to be able to detect
it, get the right tools to be able to detect that pain mechanism. Particularly when people go from acute to chronic pain,
that appears that the circuit really gets driven into a different pathway as you move from acute to chronic pain.
So understanding what that circuitry change is, that's a major focus of research now.
But in people, we don't have the way to measure it. In animals, there is some good evidence of what's happening in those circuits.
So the money now is on developing drugs that prevent that circuit change in the animal, hoping it's going to work in the human.
The trouble is in the human, when we jump from animals to human, there's this huge gap that we're jumping filled
with a billion assumptions. That's a very hazardous jump. It's like jumping across a cliff and you don't know how far the edge is.
So most people fall into the cliff. We need to move those edges closer together. And if we could understand the brain's circuits of pain,
I think we'd at least know what we're shooting for. [AUDIO LOGO]