Chronic pain has been linked to obesity and fibromyalgia in recent studies. According to scientists at the McGill University, erasing neuronal memories from the brain could hold the key to combat chronic pain.
The team believed that memories of pain are stored in the nervous system. Therefore, in case of a new pain experience, these stored memories add to those inputs, thereby elevating the cumulative intensity of pain.
“Perhaps the best example of a pain memory trace is found with phantom limb pain. Patients may have a limb amputated because of gangrene, and because the limb was painful before it was amputated, even though the limb is gone, the patients continue to feel they are suffering from pain in the absent limb. That’s because the brain remembers the pain. In fact, there’s evidence that any pain that lasts more than a few minutes will leave a trace in the nervous system,” commented Terence Coderre, who is also affiliated with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.
The investigators found that a protein namely PKMzeta, contributed to the conservation and strengthening of pain memories. Moreover, when a person experienced painful stimulation, the proportion of this protein apparently increased in the central nervous system.
Skin irritated by the application of an ingredient of hot pepper could be eased if the activity of PKMzeta was impeded at neuronal level, the analysts demonstrated. Notably, discarding memories of pain seemed to alleviate prolonged pain as well as increased reactivity to touch.
According to experts, drugs targeting the protein PKMzeta found in pain pathways could work towards reducing hypersensitivity to pain.