Preliminary evidence indicates that people can quell either temporary or chronic physical pain by learning to use their minds to reduce activity in a key brain area.
Brain-imaging technology now enables individuals to use mental exercises to control a neural region that contributes to pain perception, say neuroscientist Sean C. Mackey of Stanford University and his colleagues.
Both healthy volunteers and chronic-pain patients "learned to control their brains and, through that, their pain," Mackey holds. "However, significantly more testing must be done before this can be considered a treatment for chronic pain."
The new findings appear in the Dec. 20 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mackey's team studied 32 healthy volunteers, ages 18 to 37. First, each volunteer reported when an adjustable heat pulse applied to a leg produced pain that he or she rated as 7 out of 10, with 10 being equivalent to "the worst pain imaginable." Brain ima