Wired by Senses
(Workbook Page 46)
In the hierarchy of the sensation, pain demands the greatest level of consciousness and consideration. Its very unpleasantness is there as a danger signal, instantly invoking central and peripheral survival mechanisms. Although all of our senses are critical to our survival, pain is the alarm that indicates danger is high. The amygdala turns on, shuts off the higher associative regions of the brain, sends out the warning to the motor cortex, fires peripheral nerves, releases adrenalin, tenses muscles. We become ready to fight or flee. In persistent pain, the alarm does not predict current or impending damage to the place where the pain is located. Instead it reflects the damage inflicted by the pain itself to the body.
Emotion, sensation, memory and cognition are all integrated in the Associational Cortices. If pain is the overwhelming input, then everything is perceived as painful. It is in these areas where pain consumes us. We can start pulling out the negative thoughts, beliefs, emotions and sensations about pain, counter-stimulating with soothing and pleasurable experience. The input to the associational cortices is changed. This modifies the output from these highest functioning areas of the brain, decreasing the consumptive power of pain.
The primary Somatosensory Cortex (PSC) and the Primary Motor Cortex (PMC) conduct a lot of the business of the brain. This is especially true about pain and anxiety. The PSC receives input from the peripheral body and the PMC tells it how to respond. These very high functioning regions of the brain are under the control of the Associational Corteces (AC), the highest functioning part of the brain. The AC can be invoked consciously to over-ride the PSC and the PMC, reducing chronic anxiety and persistent pain and restoring normal function.