Neutralizing pain

Researchers hope discovery of brain cells that make pain unpleasant can lead to treatments for chronic pain patients

Imagine if we could sense pain and it would be no big deal. Stanford Medicine researchers who identified the brain cells in mice that make pain unpleasant hope the discovery could lead to treatments for chronic pain patients.

The research showed that when certain neurons were disabled in the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with emotion and fear, mice could still feel the physical sensation of pain but didn’t find it bothersome.

The mice weren’t devoid of pain. “Pain was just no longer unpleasant for them,” said Grégory Scherrer, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology and of neurosurgery. He and Mark Schnitzer, PhD, associate professor of biology and of applied physics, were senior authors of a paper describing the research published Jan. 18 in Science.