From Our 2007 Archives

Brain Scans Show How Pain Upsets Concentration

THURSDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) --When pain kicks in, it triggers a region of the brain known as the lateral occipital complex (LOC), overriding a person's ability to concentrate and accurately recognize images, new research shows.

The study, published in the July 5 issue of Neuron, provides a greater understanding of how pain interferes with concentration.

Researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, in Germany, asked volunteers to perform a cognitive task distinguishing images, plus a memory task recalling images. While performing those tasks, the researchers zapped the volunteers' hands with a laser beam to induce varying levels of pain.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tests of the volunteers' brain function during the tasks identified the LOC as a region that participates in both working memory activities and pain. It is also known to be a center for processing images.

Digging deeper, the researchers located a second brain area called the rostral anterior cortex, which is responsible for processing pain. It, too, was stimulated during the tests. The researchers theorize that this area of the brain may interfere with the LOC when people are in pain.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, July 5, 2007

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