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Change the Brain; Relieve the Pain; Transform the Person

Shared Circuits
(Workbook Page 54)

Look at the graphic on page 54 of the workbook and compare it to the Key Graphic on page 13. You will notice that six of the areas (the amygdala, insula, prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate cortex and posterior parietal cortex) are involved in both the perception and regulation of mood and pain. This common circuit explains a lot about the direct relationship between persistent depression and stress with persistent pain. In fact chronic mood problems are not so much a risk factor for persistent pain as they are another manifestation of the same illness. Treating one without treating the other becomes an exercise in futility.

Mood circuits and pain circuits have huge overlaps in several ways This animation shows the anatomical overlap of mood and pain perceiving regions of the cerebral cortex. Beyond mere anatomy is the common electrical circuit, regional functions and neurotransmitters employed by both pain and mood processing nerve cells in the brain. When combining this with surrounding glial cells and their local inflammatory responses to persistent pain and mood changes, it becomes easier to see how easily brain resources can become dedicated to maintaining persistent pain and mood problems.

When nerve cells used to regulate mood are stolen by pain processing circuits, emotional regulation, calming and self-soothing are negatively affected. The ability to stay motivated and solve problems becomes impaired and people live with fear. Poor problem-solving and decision making leads to a further erosion of self-esteem and people often become less active because they are in more pain and lose the confidence to deal with life. As activity decreases more inflammatory molecules are released in both brain and body and the brain-body loop of chronic inflammation, chronic pain and chronic mood disturbance is reinforced. People become traumatized by their pain and fight-flight centers are activated. The fear of pain looms so large that people become frightened of challenging and opposing it, seeking increased passive treatment modes and less active lifestyles.

© 2015 Michael Moskowitz, Marla Golden Contact