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New imaging technique captures brain activity in patients with chronic low back pain
Date:7/27/2011

Boston, MA Research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) uses a new imaging technique, arterial spin labeling, to show the areas of the brain that are activated when patients with low back pain have a worsening of their usual, chronic pain. This research is published in the August issue of the journal Anesthesiology.

"This study is a first step towards providing tools to objectively describe someone's chronic pain which is a subjective experience. We've found that when a patient has worsening of their usual pain, there are changes in the activity of the brain," said Ajay Wasan, MD, MSc, lead author of the paper and a researcher in the Pain Management Center at BWH. "These changes occur in the network of areas in the brain that process pain and mood."

Researchers compared 16 patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP) to 16 healthy subjects. Participants underwent three imaging sessions. The first was for a characterization and training session. During the second session, researchers used clinical maneuvers, such as pelvic tilting or straight leg raising , to temporarily exacerbate back pain. In the third session, heat was applied to the skin at an intensity that matched the pain levels during the second session. Patients rated their pain levels before and after the sessions and after each stimulation during the sessions.

During the last two sessions, researchers used the arterial spin labeling technique, which allows them to quantify the blood flow to specific regions of the brain over time. The amount of blood flow is indicative of neuron activity in that region of the brain. They found that there was increased activity in the brain of CLBP patients only when they experienced a worsening of their chronic pain and not during the heat pain session or in the healthy participants. Researchers also note that some of the areas of the brain that were activated when participants experienced a worsening of chronic pain hav
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Contact: Lori J. Shanks
ljshanks@partners.org
617-534-1604
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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