Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Think Your Pain Away, for $2 Million

I just read an article today.  First I'm going to tell you what is not interesting about it, then I'll get to the interesting part.
Thinking the Pain Away

By Ingrid Wickelgren
ScienceNOW Daily News
12 December 2005

Researchers have developed a potentially powerful new tool that allows patients to fight pain by literally thinking it away. Volunteers put inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine were able to control the activity of a brain region responsible for pain perception, suggesting that the technology may someday provide a drug- and side-effect-free way to calm troubled nerves. [...]
This is basically an enhanced form of biofeedback.  If people who are experiencing pain can see the level of activity in a certain pain center in the brain, they can learn to make that center less active, thus reducing the pain. The author mentions that the technique seems promising, except that the machines that make it possible cost two million dollars.  

The finding that patients can control pain with this kind of biofeedback is interesting, but the fact is, we already know that biofeedback works for other things, and it is not terribly surprising that this would work, too.  In this post, I pose the (inevitable) question that arises from this research, then go out on a limb a bit by expanding the findings into the sociological realm.  Continue reading here.