When it comes to pain, the two competing schools of thought are that it's either "all in your head" or "all in your body". A new study led by University of Oxford researchers indicates that, instead, pain is an amalgam of the two.
Depression and pain often co-occur, but the underlying mechanistic reasons for this have largely been unknown. To examine the interaction between depression and pain, Dr. Chantal Berna and colleagues used brain imaging to see how healthy volunteers responded to pain while feeling low.
Their findings revealed that inducing depressed mood disrupted a portion of the participants' neurocircuitry that regulates emotion, causing an enhanced perception of pain. In other words, as explained by Dr. Berna, "when the healthy people were made sad by negative thoughts and depressing music, we found that their brains processed pain more emotionally, which lead to them finding the pain more unpleasant."
The authors speculate that being in a sad state of mind and feeling low disables one's ability to regulate the negative emotion associated with feeling pain. Pain, then, has a greater impact. Rather than merely being a consequence of having pain, depressed mood may drive pain and cause it to feel worse.
"Our research suggests depressed mood leads to maladaptive changes in brain function associated with pain, and that depressed mood itself could be a target for treatment by medicines or psychotherapy in this context," commented Dr. Berna. Thus, the next step in this line of research will be to examine this mechanism in individuals who suffer from chronic pain, as these individuals also commonly experience depression. The ultimate goal, of course, is to develop more effective treatments. This is good news for the millions of individuals around the world who suffer from chronic pain and depression.
Notes to Editors
The article is "Induction of Depressed Mood Disrupts Emotion Regulation Neurocircuitry and Enhances Pain Unpleasantness" by Chantal Berna, Siri Leknes, Emily A. Holmes, Robert R. Edwards, Guy M. Goodwin, and Irene Tracey. Berna, Leknes, and Tracey are affiliated with The Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, Department of Clinical Neurology and Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom. Berna, Holmes, and Goodwin are from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom. Edwards is affiliated with the Department of Anesthesiology, Harvard Medical School, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The article appeared in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 67, Issue 11 (June 1, 2010), published by Elsevier.
The authors' disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.
Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Maureen Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.
About Biological Psychiatry
This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.
Biological Psychiatry is ranked 4th out of the 101 Psychiatry titles and 14th out of 219 Neurosciences titles on the 2008 ISI Journal Citations ReportsŪ published by Thomson Scientific.
Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including the Lancet (www.thelancet.com) and Cell (www.cell.com), and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier's online solutions include ScienceDirect (www.sciencedirect.com), Scopus (www.scopus.com), Reaxys (www.reaxys.com), MD Consult (www.mdconsult.com) and Nursing Consult (www.nursingconsult.com), which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, and the SciVal suite (www.scival.com) and MEDai's Pinpoint Review (www.medai.com), which help research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.
A global business headquartered in Amsterdam, Elsevier (www.elsevier.com) employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC (www.reedelsevier.com), a world-leading publisher and information provider. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.