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In recent years, however, a number of studies have cast doubt on the idea that these brain areas are specifically coding for pain. In the most recent study, published this week in JAMA Neurology , neuroscientists at the University of Reading and University College London scanned the brains of two individuals born without the ability to feel pain and four healthy volunteers while they received painful pinprick stimuli. The scientists found similar patterns of activity in the brain areas widely associated with pain in both groups, providing evidence that the pain matrix may be responding to other senses. If this was the only evidence that we had so far, I would be a bit more cautious in the interpretation, says Andre Mouraux, a neuroscientist at Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium who was not involved in the study. However, this is not the first piece of evidence that these areas are not specific to pain. For example, in 2011 Mouraux and his colleagues discovered similar activations in the brains of healthy individuals to both painful and non-painful stimuli. Altogether, the story becomes convincing, Mouraux says. insights on essential details for med school interview questionsBecause the pain-related regions are involved in so many other cognitive processes, most researchers are adopting the view that the pain matrix is more generally responsible for processing attention-grabbing stimuli. According to the studys authors, the idea of a pain matrix is still pervasive and drives many incorrect scientific conclusions. It is very tempting to put someone in the scanner, give a stimulus causing pain and record a brain response thatoften, but not alwayscorrelates with the intensity of the pain perceived, and conclude that the response reflects pain, says Giandomenico Iannetti, a neuroscientist at University College London.
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Holly Phillips discusses the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and the lesser known early-onset form of the disease. Sundermann said the findings are important because verbal memory tests are used to diagnose people with Alzheimers disease and mild cognitive impairment, so women may not be diagnosed until they are further along in the disease. Verbal memory involves the ability to recall words and other verbal items — its distinct from spatial memory of places, for example. The new study, published online Oct. 5 inNeurology, involved more than 1,300 people averaging 73 years of age. About 250 of them had Alzheimers disease, just over 670 had mild cognitive impairment (including memory deficits), and 390 of the participants had no thinking or memory troubles. Everyone took verbal memory tests where they were given 15 words and then asked to recall them, both immediately after and a half-hour later. The researchers also took PET brain scans of each participant, looking for how well they metabolized glucose — the brains primary energy source. Problems in metabolizing glucose (sugar) in the brain is often a hallmark of Alzheimers disease, the study authors explained. The investigators found that women tended to have better verbal memory skills than men — even when their brains had similar problems metabolizing sugar . These results suggest that women are better able to compensate for underlying changes in the brain with their cognitive reserve until the disease reaches a more advanced stage, Sundermann said in a journal news release.
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