Tags: pain | brain | waves | gamma | ekg | neural oscillations | treatment

Our Brains Have Unique 'Pain Fingerprints'

physician helping a woman in pain in office
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Wednesday, 28 June 2023 11:36 AM EDT

Everyone feels pain differently, and it is challenging for doctors to assess an individual’s pain level based on description of the pain and other subjective measures. Now, a new study using brains scans found that individuals have unique gamma brain waves that reveal personal “pain fingerprints.” These fingerprints may help doctors tailor targeted pain-relieving treatment.

According to Medical News Today, the study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology was led by researchers at the University of Essex in the U.K.

Editor's Note: Superpower Your 'Second Brain': Experience Better Immune Health and Overall Well-Being

“Past work indicated that the perception of pain may be mediated by these fast neural oscillations we call gamma,” said lead author Elia Valentini, a senior lecturer with the department of psychology and Centre for Brain Sciences at the University of Essex. “Our work demonstrates that, even if we feel the pain as similarly intense, some of us will display these gamma oscillations triggered by painful stimuli while others won’t.”

The researchers tested two groups of young healthy people, mostly male, with an average age of 24. In two different experiments, both spaced two weeks apart, the participants received pain stimuli on their hands from different types of lasers. They were asked to rate the stimuli from zero for no pain to 100 for maximum pain. In both experiments, participants wore an electrode cap to produce electroencephalogram (EEG) data from which the scientists analyzed gamma responses.

The pattern of gamma oscillations differed between individuals and the researchers found that for each person who repeated the experiment, the pattern remarkably remained the same. Their brains produced unique “pain fingerprints.”

“Our work clearly demonstrates that there is a remarkable stability: Participants with high/no gamma activity and high/no pain ratings in the former recording had high/no gamma activity and high/no pain ratings two weeks later,” said Valentini.

According to Dr. Vernon Williams, a sports neurologist, pain management specialist, and founding director of the Center for Sports Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, who was not part of the study, the results could be useful for pain management.

“It is interesting that the findings are reproducible within an individual, and that may have future implications regarding objective measures of pain and objective measures to assess pain interventions/treatments — particularly in the short term,” he said.

Valentini added that gamma oscillations are not required for pain. When they are present they are a “stable and replicable feature of the individual,” says Medical News Today. While we don’t know why some individuals recorded feeling pain and had no gamma response while others had an intense response, this may be a springboard for future research, according to  Neuroscience News.

Valentini said, “I think we have to go back to square one because past findings on the relationship between pain and gamma oscillations do not represent all participants.”

But Williams feels the study is grounds for optimism as the results may show that pain can be reduced, improved, or eliminated with the right combination of interventions.

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Health-News
Everyone feels pain differently, and it is challenging for doctors to assess an individual's pain level based on description of the pain and other subjective measures. Now, a new study using brains scans found that individuals have unique gamma brain waves that reveal...
pain, brain, waves, gamma, ekg, neural oscillations, treatment, individualized
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2023-36-28
Wednesday, 28 June 2023 11:36 AM
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