July 18, 2024
How does the brain generate pain? by Markus Ploner Abstract: The lecture will provide a pain researcher’s, neuroscientist’s and neurologist’s perspective on how pain emerges from brain activity. Pain is a highly subjective experience which serves to protect the body. It signals threat and initiates learning processes and behavioral responses to limit and avoid harm. Pain is however not a simple mirror image of threat but can be influenced by a broad variety of contextual processes such as attention, expectations, memories and goals. Moreover, pain can also occur for longer periods of time without adequate threat. This type of pain does no longer protect the body but represents a disease in its own right termed chronic pain. Chronic pain affects about a fifth of the adult population and has devastating effects on quality of life. The lecture will discuss these peculiarities and types of pain and provide an up-to-date review of the underlying brain mechanisms. We will further discuss how these insights have shaped the current understanding of pain. Finally, we will discuss whether these insights can help to establish an objective brain-based measure of the subjective experience of pain which would have strong implications for the diagnosis and treatment of pain.