What chronic pain does to your brain: part 2

C7D19EAE-5D7E-47A8-A86B-B907C757F4C8A model brain bisected IMAGE: THE THALAMUS HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS THE ‘BORDER IN THE BRAIN’ (FLICKR/DJ NEIGHT/CC BY NC ND 2.0)
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Researchers also found people with chronic pain experienced a reduction in the volume of their prefrontal cortex—the region of the brain that is understood to regulate emotions, personality expression and social behaviour.

 

This results in a further decline in the neurotransmitter GABA.

 

‘Every emotion and every cognition is amplified. People with ongoing pain, they anticipate pain with a lot of fear and they worry a lot of the time, and they can’t dampen down these feelings because the prefrontal cortex has lost its ability to dampen down these thoughts.’

 

Anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts can be big problems for those living with chronic pain, says Gustin.

 

Twenty per cent try to suicide.

 

 

A lot of clients who I see, they can’t stop their worrying, they can’t stop their anxiety, and they ask me why.

 

‘I think showing them that there are subtle changes in the brain—and because of these subtle brain changes, they have these thoughts and they can’t stop it—it helps them to cope with that, because a lot of times they are stigmatised.
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