Pain, Brain, and Depression: It isn’t all in your head…or in your body

Have you ever had an ache that’s barely noticeable, until you start to think about it?

Then the ache intensified and suddenly, the pain seems unbearable.

New studies have found that while pain isn’t “just all in your head,” the brain does have ways of influencing our perception of pain.

Is pain just all in your head?

In a new paper out of Biology Psychiatry, Chantal Berna, MD led a group of researchers from the University of Oxford, UK who looked at the effects that depression had on the perception of pain.

20 healthy volunteers listened to depressing music and were bombarded with negative thoughts.

Researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see how their brains would respond to a heat stimulus.

Following the depressed mood induction, brain responses to the heat stimulus resulted in increased perception of pain.

The MRI showed increased activity in the prefrontal areas, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the hippocampus.

These results were marked, especially when compared with significantly less activation when the volunteers were in a neutral frame of mind.

The depressed individuals who indicated the largest increase in pain perception also showed the greatest activation in the inferior frontal gyrus and the amygdala.

As you know, the amygdala is involved in the storing of emotional memories, thus linking emotional regulation and pain enhancement.

The more we know about the workings of the brain, the more we are able to tailor treatments.

The brain plays an interesting role in chronic pain, one that is discussed at length in NICABM’s teleseminar series Clinical Applications of Mind-Body Medicine: New Thinking About Stress and the Remarkable Power of Psychoneuroimmunology.

Here are just a few of the topics covered:

  • The role of the brain and the mind in pain development
  • How neuroplasticity plays an unsuspected role in chronic pain
  • Why Mind-Body Syndrome is not diagnosed
  • New PNI research into chronic pain
  • 6-part model for reprogramming pain pathways
  • How mindfulness can be used in pain treatment

To access the series, you can sign up here.

Please use the comment board below to let us know what you think about the mind-body pain connection. Based on your own work, do you think that depression and pain can be connected?

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4 Comments

  1. Schedule says:

    Maybe you could change the page subject Pain, Brain and Depression: It isn’t all in your head…or in your body | Ruth Buczynski, PhD to something more better for your subject you make. I loved the blog post still.

  2. Art Zambrano says:

    One of my clients who describes himself as a mechanical “fix-it” nut related that he noticed
    that when he injures himself (as he often does) and is involved in doing he really enjoys, the pain is mainly overlooked. When not engaged in a pleasant job the injury receives more of a focus and is noticabley more painful.

  3. Phil Cox says:

    In our hospital’s in-house TV channel, we run a video called “Pacific Lights” that has shown to reduce pain and lower blood pressure. The video has Pacific coast scenery with calming music in the background. Nurses love it, and patients and families do also. This confirms that pain can be affected somewhat without drugs.

  4. Phil Cox says:

    In our hospital’s in-house TV channel, we run a video called “Pacific Lights” that has shown to reduce pain and lower blood pressure. The video has pacific coase scenery with calming music in the background. Nurses love it, and patients and families do also. This confirms that pain can be affected somewhat with out drugs.

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