Monday, May 15, 2006

Chronic ironic

There is a very cool story in today's NYTimes.com, written by a woman who is trying out the latest technology in chronic pain treatment. The way I understand it, they put you in an 'active' MRI machine where you watch live footage of your brain activity while you're suffering from the pain that got you there in the first place, and you basically try to consciously change those patterns.

She gets into the cool, mysterious nature of pain...or should I say of perception, because the two seem to be distinct. It seems that chronic pain is often not a reflection of actual injury in the body, but rather takes place in the brain. Your brain, at some point, fuses together a bunch of circuits that make you think that your neck always hurts, or that your elbow burns when it rains.

Oh, the cruel irony of the human brain.

But here's what blows my mind about the new MRI thing...Okay: you're looking at a live image of your brain. There are coloury blotches showing which parts of your brain are active when your left big toe aches mercilessly. At the same time, your brain is the mechanism by which you look at and understand that image. In fact, the very act of looking at the image must affect the image. In other words, you're looking at your brain looking at itself...(which begs the question, are you distinct from your brain...over to you, Superchop...)

So that's weird. But then add to that the idea of then trying to consciously adjust that image. I mean, how the hell do you do that? Do you visualize the coloured blotches on the image of your brain shifting somewhere else? Do you try to feel the shift in your brain (which has no sensory receptors, I'm told)? I mean, the effort of trying to change the pain centre must show up on the scan--how do you differentiate that blotch from the shifting pain blotch?

And if we can actually alter the chemical-electric structure of our brains by looking at a picture, does that make us telepaths? As Oprah would say, this is big, people.

3 Comments:

Blogger jackp said...

of course as a man...i would be figuring out the whole 'sex part' of the brain... the whole seeing 'long legs on a red head' part....

7:43 PM  
Blogger superchop said...

I think I understand the philosophy, mind over matter type thing, but this is mind over mind. If you feel pain and look at your brain 's picture and some area is lit up, then start thinking random thoughts to stimulate other ares of your brain and when you hit a certain area, the pain started to subside you may get a visual affirmation of which thoughts activate the parts of your brain that deminish pain....wow thats a long sentence that may cause brain pain so do not read repeatedly, or do so at your own risk.

2:51 PM  
Blogger bobbysan said...

what will they "think" of next?

9:07 AM  

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