Learning Persistent Pain
(Workbook Page 27)
Look at the graphic on page 27 of the Neuroplastic Transformation workbook. It shows one of the main differences of acute and persistent pain. The same 9 regions of the brain involved with pain perception are activated in acute and persistent pain, more real estate in these regions is dedicated to pain, however, when it becomes persistent. This expansion of the pain map sets up pathways involving molecules, brain cells, circuits and networks that make the person involved more susceptible to developing persistent pain later in life with other physical and emotional trauma.
This animation takes the viewer from a herniated disc through many of the steps involved in the way that the brain learns and reinforces persistent pain. Imagine this happening in hundreds of millions of nerve cells at the same time in the pain processing regions of the brain.
While brain networks physically wire new synapses to connect to each other, they also connect via rhythmic frequencies. This means that large networks in the brain influence each other through both direct physical connections of synapses, as well as mutual rhythmic linking of electrical activity. Lower frequency linking exemplifies network coherence and coordination. Higher frequency resonance between networks means disruption. The Default Mode Network (DMN) has both an anterior part in the front of the brain and a posterior part in the back of the brain. When pain stimuli ramp up frequencies between the Fronto Insular Network (FIN) and the anterior DMN a disruption of one’s sense of self occurs.
The Default Mode Network (DMN) consists of several different separate regions of the brain. The DMN is a resting state network and is most active when the person is relaxed, awake and not task oriented. It is considered a network responsible for introspection, creativity and self-identity. The Fronto-Insular Network (FIN) is another resting network that is involved in salience, the ability to prioritize stimuli. The FIN salience network focuses the brain on what it determines is most important. The DMN and the FIN influence each other with slow, rhythmic electrical waves, the brain's own wireless network. The optimal rhythm between these networks is 1 cycle ever 10 seconds. When pain disrupts the FIN and the anterior DMN, it changes that electrical rhythm to 1 cycle every 4.5 seconds and knocks it out of synch with the posterior DMN. When pain speeds up the electrical rhythm of the posterior DMN, the entire DMN is disrupted and pain becomes the most salient signal and takes over the person's sense of who they are. The rhythmic disruption is self-perpetuating, sustaining pain perception, which no longer requires any stimulus from the body to maintain itself.