There is no doubt in the fact that pain is a very important mechanism of the nervous system expressed in an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.
And plays an important role in the lifecycle of an organism having a more or less complex nervous system.
But it also can be tremendously aggravating when it comes to chronic episodes.
According to the latest research by neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania, the brain has the ability to suppress chronic pain if an animal is hungry and owing to this factor it can be more concentrated when looking for food.
This is possible due to a small population of 300 brain cells which are responsible for an ability to prioritize hunger over chronic pain and apparently it’s been developed evolutionarily as a survival mechanism.
The study shows that hungry mice are still responsive to acute pain, but much less responsive to inflammatory pain. Moreover, their behavior was similar to those that had been given anti-inflammatory agents.
So how did the scientists know which specific brain region is responsible for such a phenomenon?
Nicholas Betley – an assistant professor of biology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences and his team did (experimentally) turn on agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons which are normally activated by hunger. They noticed that chronic pain became less intense while acute pain was still perceived normally.
“We showed that acute response to pain was perfectly intact, but inflammatory pain was suppressed to a very significant extent.”
says Amber Alhadeff – Post-Doctoral Research Fellow.
“The really interesting thing to my mind is that out of a brain of billions of neurons, this specific behavior is mediated by 300 or so neurons.”
The researchers are very excited about their findings and the clinical potential of their study.
If they can apply their approach of suppressing inflammatory pain in humans it would‘ve brought spectacular results to therapy of patients who suffer from chronic pain. Probably it even could help to get rid of side effects associated with the usage of painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents in those patients.
It’s important to note that the main idea of the study is to target the inflammatory pain, without blocking the pain completely.
“We don’t want to shut off pain altogether, there are adaptive reasons for pain, but it would be great to be able to target just the inflammatory pain.”