About this Research Topic
Chronic pain affects the entire person. Its consequences can therefore be best described within the framework of the bio-psycho-social model. However, we are just beginning to understand the true impact of this multisystem condition.
Increasing evidence for instance suggests chronic pain might lead to structural and functional changes in the brain. This notion is based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies that showed among others a decrease in grey matter density in the prefrontal, the anterior cingulate, the motor, as well as the insular cortex and the thalamus. It was found in such diverse conditions as chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, generalized joint pain and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). In addition, functional studies utilizing functional MRI, electroencephalography (EEG), and magnetoencephalography (MEG) have shown plastic changes in the brain both in acute and chronic pain conditions.
However, the clinical relevance of these findings or the impact they might have on patients’ lives remains largely elusive. Currently there is only a limited body of evidence to suggest that pain might impair different cognitive domains. Studies for instance have shown that patients’ memory, decision making and number sense might be altered as a consequence of chronic pain. What also remains unclear so far is whether the above mentioned structural or functional alterations in the brains of patients are the reasons or consequences of possible cognitive changes.
We would like to invite authors to:
- critically appraise the existing literature about structural and functional changes in the brains of pain patients and their potential cognitive impacts.
- publish original work that has examined the intricate relationship between structural and/or functional changes in the brain and the function of cognitive domains.
Although we encourage studies that investigate both the neural and cognitive consequences of chronic pain and their relationship, we also welcome research that only focuses on changes in brain structure, brain function or cognition in chronic pain.
Keywords: chronic pain, cognitive consequences, brain, functional change, neural consequences, brain structure, brain function, cognition
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