Navigation Links
Brain Scan Study Suggests Docs 'Feel' Your Pain

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Some doctors may really "feel" a patient's pain -- and also experience relief after they've given the patient treatment, new research suggests.

In the new study, scientists scanned the brains of doctors as they believed they were offering patients pain-relieving therapy.

The more empathetic the doctor, the more brain activation the researchers found.

"It's the doctor side of the placebo effect," said researcher Ted Kaptchuk, director of the Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"Not only do doctors mirror their patient's own pain, but when doctors are relieving the pain of their patient, they will also activate their own expectations of pain relief regions of their brain," added study co-author Karin Jensen, an investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital's Martinos Center for Biological Imaging. She also works with Kaptchuk in the placebo studies program.

Eighteen doctors from nine medical specialties participated in the study. The "patients" were two 25-year-old women who -- unknown to the doctors -- were only pretending to have pain that needed treatment.

To add to the illusion, the researchers first gave the doctors a mild dose of "heat pain" administered to their forearms, and then showed them how the device they were using on the patients could ease their discomfort.

Next, the doctors met with the patients to conduct a typical 20-minute exam. The researchers said this was aimed at building a rapport between physician and patient.

The patients were then seated next to the scanner, where doctors could see them through a mirror. Following instructions, the doctor used a remote control to push a button they thought would activate the device and relieve the patient's pain or to push a button they thought provided no relief.

The sham patients, on cue, grimaced when the pain-relieving button was not pushed and looked relaxed or neutral when it was pushed.

Real-time MRIs were used to track the doctors' own brain responses. When the doctors saw that the patients were in pain, there was more activation in a region that commonly becomes more active when feeling one's own pain or that of others, Jensen said. The region is known to be associated with empathy.

Conversely, when the doctors thought they were effectively "treating" the patient, the region of the brain known to be involved in the placebo response was activated.

Doctors who had scored high previously on their ability to view things from the patients' perspectives also were more likely to show activation in a region linked with reward, which is closely linked to the placebo-response area, Jensen said.

"Doctors activate their own brain regions for expectation of pain relief when they treat patients in pain," she concluded.

Whether the activation in the brain regions of the doctors is greater than that of a patient who is actually feeling the pain is not known from this study, Jensen said, but she hopes to study that in the future.

After the experiments, the doctors were told the patients were not real and offered a chance to withdraw. None did.

Although the study is a "good line of research," some of the findings might be explained simply by the basics of social interaction, noted Issidoros Sarinopoulos, assistant professor of radiology at Michigan State University. Sarinopoulos has also researched the topic.

"The doctor is expecting to see positive results," he pointed out, and "that may be why that part of the brain is activated."

Jensen agreed that social interaction could possibly intensify the effect, but would not explain it entirely.

Would the results play out in real life, when your doctor may not have ever had the condition you are complaining of? According to Jensen, previous research seems to suggest that it is the doctor's ability to understand a patient's perspective that matters more, rather than his or her having a prior personal history of the condition.

The research does suggest that "you should look for doctors who do care," Sarinopoulos said.

To Kaptchuk, the bottom line is this: "A caring doctor is not just something you feel, but there is real biology here."

More information

There's more on the placebo effect at the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

SOURCES: Molecular Psychiatry, Jan. 29, 2013; Ted Kaptchuk, associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and director, Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Issidoros Sarinopoulos, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.; Karin Jensen, Ph.D., investigator, Department of Psychiatry and Martinos Center for Biological Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, and member, Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston

Copyright©2012 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. In-brain monitoring shows memory network
2. Physicians brain scans indicate doctors can feel their patients pain -- and their relief
3. Scientists Complete 1st Map of Emotional Intelligence in the Brain
4. The Human Brain Project: Winner of the of the largest European scientific funding competition
5. IST Austria contributes to Human Brain Project
6. Neuromodulation Market (Deep Brain Stimulation) to Reach $6.8 Billion By 2017 - by MarketsandMarkets
7. First guidelines for brain amyloid imaging in Alzheimers released
8. Poor sleep in old age prevents the brain from storing memories
9. BrainTrain Announces Cognitive Training Software Giveaway to Veterans Hospitals
10. Scientists Link More Genes to Common Brain Tumor
11. Connection error in the brains of anorexics
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Brain Scan Study Suggests Docs 'Feel' Your Pain
(Date:11/24/2015)... Mississauga, ON (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... Deborah Williams without a referral for dental implants at her Mississauga, ON ... qualified and experienced in the placement of dental implants. , Missing teeth can ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... ThirdLove, the fast-growing ... a week early, offering 40% off select bras and underwear styles, now through ... both mobile fit technology and the latest fashion, quickly becoming the next generation ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ON (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... DMG ... with Ed Begley Jr., airing first quarter 2016 via Discovery Channel. Dates and show ... of the Province, and is in the business of producing and supplying medical marijuana ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... It takes only three ... business, it is critical that the first impression be positive and reflects business values. ... likely to buy anything or want to return. They will also share their thoughts ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... FL (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... In ... a growing epidemic as deaths from prescription opioids in the United States grew 400 ... cocaine. In 2013 alone, opioids were involved in 37 percent of all fatal drug ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... AVIV, Israel , November 25, 2015 ... (NASDAQ: KTOV ) (TASE: KTOV), a biopharmaceutical company ... simultaneous treatment of various clinical conditions, today announced the ... 3,158,900 American Depository Shares ( ADSs ), each representing ... purchase up to 3,158,900 ADSs. The ADSs and warrants ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... -- Trovagene, Inc. (NASDAQ: TROV ), a developer of ... Antonius Schuh, Ph.D., is scheduled to present a corporate ... Healthcare Conference. th Annual Piper Jaffray ... New York on Tuesday, December ... be available for one-on-one meetings during the conference. The ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... DUBLIN , Nov. 25, 2015 ... global pharmaceutical company, and Rugen Therapeutics, a start-up ... treatments for unmet CNS disorders and funded by ... that they have entered into an exclusive collaboration ... therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Obsessive ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: