Dissociating Pain from Its Anticipation in the Human Brain

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Science  18 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5422, pp. 1979-1981
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5422.1979

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The experience of pain is subjectively different from the fear and anxiety caused by threats of pain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy humans was applied to dissociate neural activation patterns associated with acute pain and its anticipation. Expectation of pain activated sites within the medial frontal lobe, insular cortex, and cerebellum distinct from, but close to, locations mediating pain experience itself. Anticipation of pain can in its own right cause mood changes and behavioral adaptations that exacerbate the suffering experienced by chronic pain patients. Selective manipulations of activity at these sites may offer therapeutic possibilities for treating chronic pain.

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