Mental imagery manages pain independent of opioid system

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Credit: Berna et al., JNeurosci (2018)

Mentally reframing pain as a pleasant experience is an effective regulation strategy that acts independently of the opioid system, finds new human research published in JNeurosci. The study supports clinical use of mental imagery techniques, such as imagining a new context or consequence of a painful event, in conjunction with pain-relieving drugs.

Chantal Berna, Siri Leknes and colleagues tested two approaches toward modulating pain perception. For a mental imagery task, healthy men and women were instructed to imagine individually calibrated heat pain applied to their forearm as a pleasant experience, for example by thinking about warming up by a fire after coming in from the cold. A relative relief task used visual cues to manipulate participants' expectations about the forthcoming heat pain. Although both tasks made the pain experience more pleasant, only the effects of the relative relief task were blocked by naloxone — the life-saving drug used to treat opioid overdose. Mental imagery was unaffected by naloxone, indicating that this approach works through opioid-independent mechanisms.

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Article: Opioid-independent and opioid-mediated modes of pain modulation

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0854-18.2018

Corresponding authors: Chantal Berna Siri (Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland) [email protected] and Siri Leknes (University of Oslo, Norway), [email protected]

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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Related Journal Article

http://dx.doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0854-18.2018

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