Mackey and collaborators used a technique called real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) where both subjects and researchers can look at the brain’s activity as the person thinks. In this case, researchers broadcast the activity from a part of the brain involved in pain processing -- the anterior cingulated cortex -- into the scanner. Patients watched the activity and tried to decrease it by doing mental exercises, such as focusing on a part of the body where they did not have pain. The process is similar to biofeedback, where people learn to control blood pressure or heart rate by getting constant feedback on their vital signs.The researchers say it could one day be applicable to many brain disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and dyslexia. “This is the first study to show that patients can learn to take control of a specific region of their brain and better control their pain,” says Sean Mackey, associate director of the Pain Management Division at Stanford University in Stanford, CA, and head scientist on the project research.
Tags: Neurology, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Transhumanism, Medical Technology.