Pain Suppresses the Activity Of the Brain Reward System

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Dr. Potvin: The main take home message is that pain suppresses activity of the brain reward system. At the neural level, this could potentially explain why a number of patients with chronic pain suffer from dysphoria. Also of interest, we observed that interrupting a painful stimulus was also associated with significant levels of pleasure, meaning that the brain is implementing this compensatory mechanism as a means to restore homeostasis.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Potvin: The next logical step for our team will be to identify which neurotransmitters are mediating the complex interactions between pain and reward in humans. We also foresee that future investigations will need to be performed in patients affected by chronic pain in order to determine if they present with low levels of pleasant pain relief in experimental settings. If so, this inability to attain homeostasis could provide a potential biological explanation for the vicious cycle of pain and depression, which represents a critical clinical concern for this patient population.

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Dr. Potvin: The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Citation: Bitar N, Dugré JR, Marchand S, Potvin S. Medial Orbitofrontal De-Activation During Tonic Cold Pain Stimulation: A fMRI Study Examining the Opponent-Process Theory. J Pain Res. 2020 Jun 8;13:1335-1347.

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