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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 Jun 2022 - 10 Jun 2022

2022 Jun 04

Exp Neurol

Is there hemispheric specialization in the chronic pain brain?


Tajerian M, Amrami M, Betancourt J M
Exp Neurol. 2022 Jun 04:114137.
PMID: 35671801.


Organismal bilateral symmetry is associated with near-identical halves of the central nervous system, with certain functions displaying specialization through one brain hemisphere. The processing of pain in the brain as well as brain plasticity in the context of painful injuries have garnered much attention in recent decades. Noninvasive brain imaging studies in pain-free human subjects have identified multiple brain regions that are linked to the sensory and affective components of pain. Longlasting adaptations in brains of chronic pain sufferers have likewise been described, suggesting a mechanism for pain chronification. Invasive molecular and biochemical studies in animal models have expanded on these findings, with added emphasis on the role of specific genes and molecules involved. To date, the extent of hemispheric asymmetry in the context of pain is not well-understood. This topical review evaluates the evidence of hemispheric specialization observed in humans and rodent models of pain and compares it to findings where such asymmetry is absent. Our review shows conflicting information regarding the existence of pain-related asymmetry, and if so, the side to which it can be localized. This could be due to the heterogeneity of pain processing pathways, heterogeneity in study parameters, as well as differences in data reporting. With the advent of progressively sophisticated non-invasive tools that can be used in human subjects, in addition to more precise methods to visualize and control specific brain regions or neuronal ensembles in animal models, we predict that the next few decades will witness a better understanding of the supraspinal control and processing of chronic pain, including the role of each of its hemispheres.