A new study says you can use your brain’s natural ability to feel pain to treat a chronic illness, while simultaneously alleviating your heart disease risk.
“Brain chemistry is the one thing that’s not fully understood and is really critical to understanding how our brains work,” said Dr. Jeffrey R. Weiler, an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Emory Brain Health Institute.
“We want to be able to predict how people with disease will respond and tailor our treatments accordingly.
This study is a first step toward that.”
Weiler, who presented his findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Houston, Texas, said the findings are not a cure for heart disease but instead a means to help the average person with chronic conditions.
“We really want to understand the neurobiological mechanisms of pain, because it’s very, very important to understand how the brain can be activated to regulate pain,” he said.
He said the study used a variety of imaging techniques and techniques that are not typically used in the field, including PET, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).
Tests were conducted at both the Emile Hospital in Houston and the Emure Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, to determine how the pain is translated to brain activity, and how the stimulation affects the brain.
The results, which were published in the journal PLoS ONE, found that the brain activity that resulted in pain relief could be translated into pain relief in the long term.
Treatments based on the brain’s pain-relieving ability can be given for as little as a few weeks, Weiler said.
“There are studies showing people can go from being on a painkiller to having a pain-free day,” he added.
“That’s really important because it helps to have a cure.”
Treatment options include medication to relieve pain, or therapy that aims to strengthen the connections between the brain and the body.
Weilers work at Emure’s Emile-Covid-19 center, where he works on treatments for heart failure, chronic pain, and stroke.