Pain Imaging

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Abstract

Pain is an inseparable aspect of life experience and contains both sensory and emotional dimensions. Sensory qualities associated with pain are usually unpleasant and are accompanied by the pain-related emotional response often referred to as “suffering.” However, emotions do not simply occur in parallel with pain, but rather there is an overlap between pain and emotion-related neurophysiological processes. Novel brain imaging methods combined with psychophysical methods have clearly shown that pain with its sensory, cognitive and affective dimensions can be modified by attention, emotions and environmental factors. Over the past decade, developments in brain imaging methods have enabled us not only to understand changes in brain function associated with persistent pain but also changes in brain structure. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a review of research on neuroimaging of pain. The chapter is divided into four sections: (1) an overview of imaging methods (PET, MEG, EEG, and MRI); (2) imaging studies that examine pain and its modulation by emotional and cognitive factors, (3) imaging studies of clinical pain states, and (4) future directions for research on this topic. Each section reviews with detail the above listed subjects and its pertinent literature.