Anxiety and pain: two sides of the same synapse?

January 20th, 2015

Jim Oldfield 

Researchers have known for a decade what patients have suspected much longer: chronic pain produces anxiety, and anxiety makes the pain worse. But why? Scientists have found tantalizing clues, including intense activity in the same part of the brain during both sensations. But an answer has been elusive.

Now, neuroscientists at the University of Toronto have mapped a mechanism in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC, that could explain the link between anxiety and chronic pain.

"Patients with chronic pain are often anxious, and that if this pain lasts a long time many will suffer depression and lose hope," Zhuo says (photo by Sarah Joy via Flickr)

"Patients with chronic pain are often anxious, and that if this pain lasts a long time many will suffer depression and lose hope," Zhuo says (photo by Sarah Joy via Flickr)