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Pain that persists or recurs for more than 3 months is defined as chronic and as such is one of the largest medical health problems in the developed world. Although the management and treatment of acute pain is reasonably good, the needs of chronic pain patients are largely unmet, creating an enormous emotional and financial burden to sufferers, carers, and society. Improvements in our ability to diagnose the causes of chronic pain are desperately needed. Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry is struggling to find new and better drugs to treat chronic pain sufferers. Innovative methods that can aid decisions regarding choice and targeting of treatments alongside conventional clinical measures are therefore needed. Neuroimaging methods have the capacity to fulfil this need as they provide a non-invasive, systems-level understanding of the central mechanisms involved in pain processing. To date, the focus has been to dissect the physiological, psychological, and cognitive factors that influence nociceptive inputs to alter pain perception in healthy subjects and patients suffering from chronic pain. Obtaining reliable objective information related to the individual's subjective pain experience provides a powerful means of understanding not only the central mechanisms contributing to the chronicity of pain states but also the potential diagnostic information. Identifying non-invasively where plasticity, sensitization and other amplification processes might occur along the pain neuraxis for an individual and relating this to their specific pain experience or measure of pain relief is therefore of considerable interest to the clinical pain community and pharmaceutical industry. In this review, I shall briefly summarize our current state of knowledge regarding the central representation of pain perception in varying situations.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/bja/aen102

Type

Journal article

Journal

Br J Anaesth

Publication Date

07/2008

Volume

101

Pages

32 - 39

Keywords

Affect, Brain, Brain Mapping, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Nociceptors, Pain, Placebo Effect