Scientists are discovering promising approaches to treating pain, one of the most common and debilitating neurological complaints, according to research released at Neuroscience 2011, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. Studies show that "mirror box therapy" can help reduce arthritis-related pain, and that a new opioid-like drug may be able to relieve acute pain without the euphoric effects that can lead to dependency. Additional research also identifies the possible neurobiological source of common side effects of morphine.
Specifically, today's new findings show that:
- Two of morphine's most common side effects, itch and headache, may be due to the drug's activation of immune cells in the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord (Julie Wieseler, PhD, abstract 178.12, ).
- A visual feedback technique called mirror box therapy can help alleviate hand pain in patients with arthritis (Laura Case, abstract 72.03).
- In an animal study, a novel drug relieves acute pain without the dangerous side effects associated with opioid painkillers such as morphine (Stephen Harrison, PhD, abstract 178.10).
- A gene therapy treatment reduced pain in 10 people in a Phase I clinical trial that tested for treatment safety (David Fink, MD).
- A naturally occurring protein that supports the survival and growth of neurons in the brain and spinal cord may be a potential therapeutic intervention to prevent chronic pain following spinal cord injuries, according to animal research (Ching-Yi Lin, PhD).