Pain and pleasure activate same brain structures

1 min read

There really is a fine line between pleasure and pain, researchers find

David Borsook is a Harvard Medical School associate professor of radiology, who both treats patients and conducts research. “Over 15 years of seeing patients with pain it became obvious that we do not have good methods of assessing chronic pain,” Borsook says. “And we do not have good methods for treating it.” So Borsook and his colleagues decided to conduct an experiment to see which areas of the brain are activated by pain, and which by pleasure. To their surprise, the reseachers found that pleasure and pain are recorded in the same brain structures. Even more surprising was their discovery that some of the mental circuits associated with pleasure appear to react more quickly to hurtful stimuli than do the sensory areas of the brain traditionally associated with pain. Gaining a better grasp on the pain circuitry in the brain could lead to new treatments, Borsook says. The research findings appeared in the Dec. 6, 2001, issue of the journal Neuron.