2016-03-25 – New theory describes pain as multi-layered gradual event which consists of specific pain components, and more general components, such as negative emotions.
Grimacing, we flinch when we see someone accidentally hit their thumb with a hammer. But is it really pain we feel? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and other institutions have now proposed a new theory that describes pain as a multi-layered gradual event which consists of specific pain components, such as a burning sensation in the hand, and more general components, such as negative emotions. A comparison of the brain activation patterns during both experiences could clarify which components the empathic response shares with real pain.
“Both the nonspecific and the specific information are processed in parallel in the brain structures responsible for pain. But the activation patterns are different”
Imagine you’re driving a nail into a wall with a hammer and accidentally bang your finger. You would probably injure finger tissue, feel physical distress, focus all your attention on your injured finger and take care not to repeat the misfortune. All this describes physical and psychological manifestations of “pain” – specifically, so-called nociceptive pain experienced by your body, which is caused by the stimulation of pain receptors.
Now imagine that you see a friend injure him or herself in the same way. You would again literally wince and feel pain, empathetic pain in this case. Although you yourself have not sustained any injury, to…
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