By mapping brain circuitry associated with addiction and reward, scientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine have found the first evidence linking smoking to the development of chronic back pain. The study reports that smoking appears to affect the way the brain responds to back pain and seems to make individuals less resilient to pain occurrences.
Researchers analyzed MRI activity between 2 brain areas (nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex, NAc-mPFC), which are involved in addictive behavior and motivated learning. This circuitry is critical in development of chronic pain, as these 2 regions of the brain “talk” to one another and the strength of that connection helps determine who will become a chronic pain patient. The findings hint at a potentially more general link between addiction and pain.
Read a news story from the University’s website here.