Researchers found that using a specific frequency of light to modulate tiny regions known as anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of the brain, they could significantly reduce pain in laboratory mice models. Current electrode based ACC stimulation techniques miss specificity and activate both inhibitory and excitatory neurons.
Professor Samarendra Mohanty, who co-authored the study published in PLOS ONE, said in a press release: “Our results clearly demonstrate, for the first time, that optogenetic stimulation of inhibitory neurons in ACC leads to decreased neuronal activity and a dramatic reduction of pain behavior. Moreover, we confirmed optical modulation of specific electrophysiological responses from different neuronal units in the thalamus part of the brain, in response to particular types of pain-stimuli.”
The research focused on the same chemical irritants and the exact same mechanical pain experienced after a pinch or pinprick. According to Prof. Mohanty, this project could lead to a better understanding of the pathways and strategies of pain and ultimately could help manage chronic pain.
“While reducing the sensation for chronic pain by optical stimulation, we still want to sense certain types of pain because they tell us to move our hands or legs away from something that is too hot or that might otherwise hurt us if we get too close,” Prof. Mohanty noted.
This research could direct the scientific community towards less invasive methods to treat severe pain without losing crucial sensing, emotional and behavior functions.
In order news related to Texas-based research related to the study of chronic pain, a recent comprehensive review that involved researchers from University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center concluded that psychological interventions often provide more relief to chronic pain than prescription drugs or surgery without the risk of side effects, but are used less frequently than traditional medical treatments. The study was published by the American Psychological Association. Learn more.