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Laura Mackie
Laura Mackie
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Manage your pain, save your brain

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A recent study of long term pain sufferers provides information of interest to medical professionals as well as members of the legal community. In particular, the study provides a useful basis on which to determine residuals for clients suffering long term pain as a result of the negligence of a third party.

The November 23, 2006 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience reported on a study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University in which brain scans of 26 people who experienced unrelenting back pain for a year were compared to a pain-free control group. The results of the study indicated that pain sufferers lost 5 to 11 percent of gray matter over and above what normal aging would take away. Gray matter is an outer layer of the brain containing nerve cells which are crucial to information and memory processing.The study does not reveal why the brain shrinks, but it might involve degradation of neurons. Neurons are the signal transmitters of the mind and body.

The study leader, A. Vania Apkarian, concluded that people afflicted with other long-term pain and stress might face similar brain shrinkage and plans to further study that possibility. Apkarian stated in an interview, “Suffering of pain is fundamentally an emotional condition. Different types of pain will have different types of emotional parameters, which will probably result in different types of atrophy — different amounts and in different brain regions.”