Summary: Public release date: 26-Nov-2008
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Contact: Marla Paul
Baffling chronic pain linked to rewiring of brain
Brain looks like inept cable guy changed the hookups
CHICAGO --- Scientists peered at the brains of people with a baffling chronic pain condition and
discovered something surprising. Their brains looked like an inept cable guy had changed the hookups,
rewiring the areas related to emotion, pain perception and the temperature of their skin.
The new finding by scientists at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, begins to
explain a mysterious condition that the medical community had doubted was real.
The people whose brains were examined have a chronic pain condition called complex region pain
syndrome (CRPS.) It's a pernicious and nasty condition that usually begins with an injury causing
significant damage to the hand or the foot. For the majority of people, the pain from the injury
disappears once the limb is healed. But for 5 percent of the patients, the pain rages on long past the
healing, sometimes for the rest of people's lives. About 200,00 people in the U.S. have this condition.
In a hand injury, for example, the pain may radiate from the initial injury site and spread to the whole
arm or even the entire body. People also experience changes in skin color to blue or red as well as