People suffering from chronic pain often have to deal with depression and lack of motivation. It can be difficult to explain to friends and family who say “Just get out and DO something… it will make you feel better!” But now, there’s some science behind the lack of motivation felt by chronic pain sufferers.
Chronic pain, as debilitating as it may be, actually has a purpose. It serves to limit your behavior in such a way as to promote healing and prevent further injuries. And in the process of preventing you from further damage, chronic pain may actually rewire your brain in a way that decreases your motivation.
Researchers found that mice with chronic pain showed decreased motivation, even when they were given painkillers. They looked at a specific area in the brain associated with pain and motivation and found that nerve cells weren’t firing properly. They found that a specific chemical, called galanin, was the key. When galanin receptors were inactivated in this area, neurons began firing properly, and injured mice showed similar motivation to control mice.
Could treatments targeting galanin receptors change brain currents in such a way as to alleviate the lack of motivation that many HUMAN chronic pain sufferers feel? The emotional effects of chronic pain are often just as draining as the physical effects, and this research could bring hope to chronic pain sufferers. Read more about it here:
An implantable neural device could restore memory in patients with Alzheimer’s! The Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the development of this device, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCLA, and Medtronic are going to work together to make it a reality.
The device will stimulate neural tissue to bridge gaps in the brain, making it possible for patients to access memories and also form new ones. This device could also help patients with TBI (traumatic brain injury). This closed-loop, wireless device will be implanted into the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.
Neurostimulators were piloted in rodents and dogs before approved for human use, and it’s amazing to see the advances and the potential associated with this research. Patients suffering from Parkinson’s and chronic pain are already benefiting from this technology, and with the rising incidence of Alzheimer’s, the potential for treatment with this device is great news. The hope is to have this device in clinical trials by 2017. Read more about it here:
Ever wonder why you can’t remember anything that happened when you were a baby? Babies can certainly form memories- but they don’t store them in a way that allows them to access those memories when they’re older. It’s called infantile amnesia, and new research is shedding light on a possible physical mechanism for the phenomenon.
It turns out that when you’re a baby, new brain cells are generated at such a fast rate that essentially there’s too much cell turnover to allow the infant to store memories. They can form memories, but if they can’t store those memories, they can’t access them when they get older.
Through research in rodents, guinea pigs and degus, researchers found that changing the rate of neurogenesis (generating new brain cells) affects memory storage. Animals who had their neuron production slowed down were able to remember things better than those that had their neuron production sped up (like the high rate of neurogenesis in infants).
It’s possible that lack of language skills and emotional development still play a role in infantile amnesia, but investigation into the rate of neurogenesis is certainly interesting. By looking into other effects of changing the rate of neurogenesis, could a treatment or prevention for Alzheimer’s be on the horizon? What do you think?