Identification of brain’s painkilling region could lead to alternative pain relief options

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alternative pain relief, chronic pain, painkiller information, arthritis digest magazineThe brain’s natural painkilling system could be used as a possible alternative to opioids for the effective relief of chronic pain, experts report in eLife.

A research team has pinpointed an area of the brain that is important for our intrinsic pain relief system. It is hoped that the results could lead to the development of pain treatments that activate the painkilling system by stimulating this area of the brain, but without the side-effects of opioids.

“We’re trying to understand exactly what the endogenous analgesia system is: why we have it, how it works and where it is controlled in the brain,” explains Dr Ben Seymour who led the research. “If we can figure this out, it could lead to treatments that are much more selective in terms of how they treat pain.”

Experiments revealed that a single region of the prefrontal cortex, called the pregenual cingulate cortex seems to be key.

“[Our] results build a picture of why and how the brain decides to turn off pain in certain circumstances, and identify the pregenual cingulate cortex as a critical ‘decision centre’ controlling pain in the brain,” Dr Seymour says.

This decision centre is now a key place to focus future research efforts.

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