A study investigating brain scans has revealed how chronic pain emerges as a result of an emotional response to an injury.
In doing so, scientists suggest this shows the emotional state of the brain can explain why individuals react differently to similar injuries. For instance, while some can make a full recovery, others remain in constant pain.
The research, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, was conducted on 40 volunteers who had all experienced a sustained period of back pain lasting one to four months. It identified the process which involves interaction between two regions of the brain known as the frontal cortex and nucleus accumbens.
Lead scientist professor Vania Apakarian, from Northwestern University in Chicago, US, stated that if the brain reacted more emotionally to the initial injury, the likelihood is that pain will persist after the injury has healed.
He said: “The injury itself is not enough to explain the ongoing pain. It has to do with the injury combined with the state of the brain.
“It may be that these sections of the brain are more excited to begin with in certain individuals, or there may be genetic and environmental influences that predispose these brain regions to interact at an excitable level.”