PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In this study, we analyzed records from 354,943 individuals in the UK biobank cohort and found that those with chronic pain in multiple parts of their bodies had a greater risk of dementia and experienced broader and faster cognitive decline, including memory, executive function, learning, and attention. Further analysis suggested that the risk increased with each additional pain site, and was mediated by the atrophy in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.
Since hippocampal volume decreases with age, the researchers equated the magnitude of the effect of hippocampal atrophy in patients with multisite chronic pain to the effect of aging in healthy people with an average age of 60.
PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Individuals with multisite chronic pain had increased dementia risk, accelerated cognitive decline, and decreased hippocampal volume compared to pain-free controls and individuals with single-site chronic pain. Multisite chronic pain may lead to up to eight years of accelerated hippocampal aging, an effect that may underlie a series of cognitive burdens.
PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: The study provides a quantitative understanding of the impact of chronic pain on cognitive function and the risk of dementia, laying an essential foundation for future research on the relationship between chronic pain and cognitive impairment. It also emphasizes the excessive burden of multisite chronic pain on patients’ cognition and brain and highlights the need to account for the overlapping nature of pain conditions in both basic and clinical studies.
PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?
Response: The study was supported by the STI2030-Major Projects, National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Scientific Foundation of the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Young Elite Scientist Sponsorship Program by the China Association for Science and Technology.
Elevated dementia risk, cognitive decline, and hippocampal atrophy in multisite chronic pain
Wenhui Zhao https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0497-0085, Lei Zhao, Xiangyu Chang, +1, and Yiheng Tu
Edited by Steven Small, The University of Texas at Dallas; received September 8, 2022; accepted January 18, 2023 by Editorial Board Member Michael S. Gazzaniga
February 21, 2023
120 (9) e2215192120
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