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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 Jun 2024 - 14 Jun 2024

2024 Jun 05

Neurosci Biobehav Rev


Expectation of pain and relief: a dynamical model of the neural basis for pain-trauma co-morbidity.


Strigo IA, Craig ADB, Simmons AN


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is highly co-morbid with chronic pain conditions. When present, PTSD significantly worsens chronic pain outcomes. Likewise, pain contributes to a more severe PTSD as evidenced by greater disability, more frequent use of harmful opioid analgesics and increased pain severity. The biomechanism behind this comorbidity is incompletely understood, however recent work strongly supports the widely-accepted role of expectation, in the entanglement of chronic pain and trauma symptoms. This work has shown that those with trauma have a maladaptive brain response while expecting stress and pain, whereas those with chronic pain may have a notable impairment in brain response while expecting pain relief. This dynamical expectation model of the interaction between neural systems underlying expectation of pain onset (traumatic stress) and pain offset (chronic pain) is biologically viable and may provide a biomechanistic insight into pain-trauma comorbidity. These predictive mechanisms work through interoceptive pathways in the brain critically the insula cortex. Here we highlight how the neural expectation-related mechanisms augment the existing models of pain and trauma to better understand the dynamics of pain and trauma comorbidity. These ideas will point to targeted complementary clinical approaches, based on mechanistically separable neural biophenotypes for the entanglement of chronic pain and trauma symptoms.