Cognitive and emotional factors can affect brain patterns in chronic pain

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Cognitive and emotional factors can affect brain patterns in chronic pain

Chronic pain has always been a concern because of its significant effects on health. The altered brain regions are not just engrossing in pain processing, but also in other cognitive and sensory functions. These functions become the matter of interest among scientists to investigate the relationship between pain related cognitive, emotional factors and brain alterations. This can be possible using MRI, an emerging technique in chronic pain research, which can scan the brain structural & functional fluctuations. Hence, to evaluate the relationship between Cognitive and Emotional factors with brain alterations, scientific search engines (Pubmed, Web of Science and Embase) were searched for existing original research reports.

Out of existing literature, 28 eligible papers were selected, having information regarding factors that showed association with brain alterations. The factors were pain catastrophizing, fear-avoidance, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Two independent scientists evaluated the methodological quality of these eligible papers. Malfliet A and colleagues found that the evidence regarding associations was incomplete.

During the evaluation, pain catastrophizing showed a relation with brain area that was involved in emotion and motor activity, pain processing, attention to pain and to reduced top-down pain inhibition. On the other hand, anxiety and depressive symptoms showed no clear relationship with brain features. Despite this, all emotional and cognitive factors involved in the study showed a significant relation with fMRI data at rest state. This explains that even at rest, the brain reflects certain activity for factors related to pain. Further, factors such as illness perceptions, pain attention, attitudes and beliefs received less attention in the eligible literature.

Therefore, the overall study stated that brain regions involved in chronic pain show association with maladaptive cognitive and emotional factors.


European Journal of Pain

Link to the source:

The original title of the article:

Brain changes associated with cognitive and emotional factors in chronic pain: A systematic review


Malfliet A; Coppieters et al.

Exploratory, Cognitive and emotional factors, brain patterns, chronic pain
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