Chronic pain is often difficult to treat, and we don’t yet know why certain people are more vulnerable. This gap in knowledge significantly delays the discovery of new treatments.
Early research suggests that childhood experiences may influence our lifelong vulnerability to pain.
Understanding how the young brain learns to respond to pain is the first step in identifying how these circuits can lead to chronic pain in adulthoodDr Stephanie Koch
“We now know that pain responses are controlled by groups of cells, or circuits, in central areas such as in the brain,” says Dr Stephanie Koch from UCL. “These circuits use cues from the environment, experienced during childhood, to mature. While this is necessary for the development of healthy adult pain responses, it also leaves pain circuits vulnerable to adverse adaptation to pain, especially after injury early in life.”
Dr Koch’s work suggests that adverse adaptation to pain in childhood can increase lifelong vulnerability to pain. Using cutting-edge genetics, her research in mice aims to identify how childhood experience can change the development of brain circuits; determine how this altered brain development can shape adult pain vulnerability; and reveal the life stages most susceptible to adverse learning.
“Understanding how the young brain learns to respond to pain is the first step in identifying how these circuits can lead to chronic pain in adulthood,” says Dr Koch.
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