Constant hurting drains motivation by quieting certain cells in reward circuit
Relentless pain can sap a person’s will to exercise, work or socialize. The constant hurting may drain motivation by muffling nerve cells in a brain area involved with pleasure, a study in mice suggests. The results, published in the August 1 Science, may help explain why people who chronically ache could have trouble with treatments that require action, such as physical therapy.
“The natural response to the pain experience is to avoid and withdraw,” says psychologist Laura Simons of Boston Children’s Hospital. And nursing a wound can help acute injuries heal. But when pain turns chronic, that tendency to withdraw can persist beyond the point of being useful. By illuminating one way that long-term pain reduces motivation, the new study “legitimizes what chronic pain patients experience,” Simons says.