Researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine say that people who have a specific abnormality in their brain structure are more likely to develop chronic pain after a lower back injury. The study was published in the journal Pain.
The research identified a “specific irregularity” or “marker” in the axons of the brain. These are pathways in the white matter of the brain that enable them to communicate. Some of the axons surround the nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex – these two areas are responsible for processing pain and emotion. The researchers report that the “marker” enabled them to predict patients’ continual back pain with up to 85% correctness.
A. Vania Apkarian, professor of psychology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and senior author of the study says, “The abnormality makes them vulnerable and predisposes them to enhanced emotional learning that then amplifies the pain and makes it more emotionally significant. We’ve found the pain is triggered by these irregularities in the brain. We’ve shown abnormalities in brain structure connections may be enough to push someone to develop chronic pain once they have an injury.” Medical News Today 9/22/13