[Magazine] Scientific American Mind. Vol. 20. No 5

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Extra resources for [Magazine] Scientific American Mind. Vol. 20. No 5

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Catastrophizing may worsen pain by making a person concentrate on it and attach additional emotion to it. In a study published in 2004 rheumatologist Daniel J. Clauw of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and his colleagues tested 29 fibromyalgia patients for their tendency to catastrophize and then measured their brain responses to blunt pressure on a thumbnail. They linked pain catastrophizing to increased activity in brain areas related to the anticipation of pain, attention to pain and emotional aspects of pain perception.

J U P I T E R I M AG E S Parting with Pain Research into the psychology of pain may lead to new ways of helping people overcome or cope with pain caused by injury, medical treatment or disease, whether minor or significant. Already, increased knowledge of the brain circuits that mediate the interaction of reward and pain relief is beginning to provide clues for strategies to dissociate the addictive potential of drugs from their pain-relieving power. The findings may lead to effective painkillers that are significantly less addictive than opiates.

Painkillers were not much better, and the most effective drugs made your patient exhausted and constipated. He is now depressed, sleeping poorly and having difficulty concentrating. As you talk with him, you realize that his thinking also seems impaired. Your exam confirms that the original injury has healed. Only pain and its consequences remain— and your options for helping this man are running out. This scenario plays out every day in doctors’ offices around the world. Fifteen to 20 percent of adults worldwide suffer from persistent, or chronic, pain.

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