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A small portion of the amygdala blunts pain by dampening the activity of multiple pain-processing regions of the brain, suggests research with mice in Nature¬†Neuroscience. Researchers used fluorescent markers to hunt for brain regions activated by surgical anesthetics. This search led to neurons in the central region of the amygdala. Using a technology called optogenetics to activate these neurons in health, awake mice, the researchers were able to suppress the rodents’ responses to painful stimuli. Silencing the neurons caused mice to react to nonpainful touch as if it were painful. Next, the researchers traced the neurons’ connections to more than 20 other brain regions involved in processing sensory and affective aspects of pain. Activating the central amygdala neurons decreased pain-related activity of neurons in many of those areas. The research findings may help identify nonopioid treatments for chronic pain. (Monitor on Psychology)

Susie Bean Gives