Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Canada Medicine Science

Erasing Neuronal Memories May Help Control Chronic Pain 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the men-in-black-with-medical-degrees dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team of researchers led by McGill neuroscientist Terence Coderre, who is also affiliated with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, has found the key to understanding how memories of pain are stored in the brain. More importantly, the researchers are also able to suggest how these memories can be erased, making it possible to ease chronic pain."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Erasing Neuronal Memories May Help Control Chronic Pain

Comments Filter:
  • It has long been known that the central nervous system “remembers” painful experiences, that they leave a memory trace of pain.

    So was L. Ron Hubbard right about "engrams" causing PTSD?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      L. Ron Hubbard was right about starting a religion in order to get rich.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jay L (74152)

      So was L. Ron Hubbard right about "engrams" causing PTSD?

      Page 194.

      Dianetics.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Well, he was sort of right about memories causing things like PTSD, but he didn't invent that idea (or the word engram). The things he did add, like engrams being stored impressed on the protoplasm of cells or the implication that engrams are experiences you had while unconscious, are wrong.

    • Re:Dianetics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @12:51AM (#39041711) Homepage

      There's a lot of almost right in Dianetics, that was part of Hubbard's strategy. Combine that with some over-simplifications, magic thinking and space aliens and there you have it.

      • Combine that with some over-simplifications, magic thinking and space aliens

        Ah, you've discovered Phase II.

        Certainly "Profit" worked out nicely.

    • by DrXym (126579)

      So was L. Ron Hubbard right about "engrams" causing PTSD?

      L Ron Hubbard was a pathological liar, fantasist, wife beater, sociopath and all round nutcase. The default assumption about anything he said in the absence of evidence was that it was a self-serving lie. Not sure how you'd even be able to massage PTSD to be the same condition as chronic pain to consider him to be "right". And even if he were "right" (and he isn't) then only in the same fashion as a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

    • fuck dianetics and engrams. hindus have a word for this: samskara. and they've been around a lot longer than scientology.
    • Chronic pain is a problem but I don't think the way they are going about it is the solution to it.

      Trying to mess with the chemistry of the brain can have consequences which may be worse than the chronic pain they are trying to treat. PTSD is a problem, pain is a problem, but trying to erase the memories of it is not the solution.

  • by casings (257363) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @07:46PM (#39039857)

    Finally I can get over my ex-girlfriend

  • by hondo77 (324058) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @08:07PM (#39040047) Homepage
    "You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!"
    • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:30PM (#39040727) Journal

      I can't tell you how much I hope they manage to find a non-opiate way to handle chronic pain. I'm not on them any more, but they are a bitch even when they make life bearable. But there is a difference between physical and emotional pain. I know it's a fact that one can lead to the other (I've experienced it) but normally they have different causes/initiators. And if you can nip one in the bud fast enough, it will stop the spill over effect to the other.

      I had a really pinched nerve in my back before (L5/S1) caused by a ruptured disk. Really bad... could barely walk, and not more than a few paces without assistance (and sometimes lying down in just the right position was the only way I could be). Incredible pain, permanent nerve damage, partial paralysis of some muscles in the leg (most of which has come back), and incredible pain where even a mostly nonreligious person like myself would sometimes be reduced to praying for it to stop. Lasted about 9 or 10 months till surgery fixed it about 70%. Yay.

      I would have loved something like this if it meant I wouldn't have had to deal with opiates like 80mg Oxycontin to make life livable. And most especially so that I wouldn't have had to endure the physical and emotional effects when weening myself off that shit after the surgery took away almost all the pain (my doc was totally surprised when I told him I was off the shit several months after the surgery... without his help). I think getting off opiates messes you up almost as long as the injury. People don't get it: once you've had that harsh shit in your system for more than a few months, and at high doses (2 or 3 80s a day... and no it didn't stop all the pain but managed it), just getting it out of your system is the start. It tickles that part of the brain so long and so hard that you literally have a hole in your psyche that doesn't fill in for months and months and months and .... You know something is missing. And then there is the recovering from the emotional turmoil that the pain caused. Put the two together and it took at least a year or so to find an even keel for me. And I know I can be an irritable and maybe :) and irritating fuck at the best of times... but I was a champion then.

      I didn't like being on it because it makes you dull. But unlike what many think, it doesn't totally incapacitate you and you can function. Anyway... I hope like hell they find something to help people with chronic pain that works and is more benign than what is out there now. I don't like having to take acetaminophen or NSAIDs [wikipedia.org] every day. I could probably argue for low dose oxys from my doc, but I don't fucking want those... period. Here's to the folks at McGill!

      • by gjkopf (2529052)
        This posting is so honest, it makes me wonder: How did you get a peek in my Diary? ;)
        • People who haven't had this kind of pain usually through no fault of their own don't really understand what severe chronic pain does to a person. Nor do I wish anyone other than a few dictators first hand knowledge. :) Similar to how mental health issues are finally being discussed openly (about time... I had a good buddy degenerate into severe schizophrenia a long time ago and commit suicide) it's time people understood how debilitating chronic pain is and the issues around it. Have to talk about it or no
      • Did my L4/5 disc in as well as my L5/S1. Had both operated on but in hindsight would have tried osteopathy first.

        Don't know if this will help you but I later found out that some of the pain was caused by muscle tension, especially around the facet joints.

        I'm taking serrapeptase in hope of reversing the 'permanent' nerve damage (I have sciatic numbness) as well as the scarring from the operation. Also massaging the area helps.

        Alexander technique/posture correction is a must - pain teaches us very bad habit

        • Thanks. I understand the muscle tension thing 100%. And the posture. I'll look up serratiopeptidase and the Alexander exercise. I find core strengthening actually helps a lot including a kind of side sit up I do kind of like a side plank but sit upping, if you can follow. I'll do it either across a bench with my feet tucked under a rack at the same level to anchor, or less strenuous on getting sideways on a back extension device like at a gym (not talking inversion table). If those aren't available I'll sid
          • by UpnAtom (551727)

            Core strengthening is probably important, but you need the right posture for most benefit.

            Serrapeptase is entirely experimental - but it's the only thing I could find that might break down scar tissue. I haven't tracked exactly which parts of my leg are numb over time but it seems to have reduced.

            AC makes some interesting points if you're willing to go under the knife again.

      • by bogie (31020)

        Boy can I relate. I'll just say ditto for 15yrs and I hope to someday come out the other side like you did. I'm glad things have gotten better and your off the shitty meds.

      • by Khyber (864651)

        "I can't tell you how much I hope they manage to find a non-opiate way to handle chronic pain"

        Try medical cannabis. Major post-operative neuropathic pain after getting a fair bit of my skeleton replaced. Worked just as well as Oxy 40mg.

        There's research going on regarding sea slug toxins. I'm really interested in that, because if I could be pain-free without needing to resort to smoking/vaping/eating cannabis, I'm down for it.

        • by elucido (870205)

          "I can't tell you how much I hope they manage to find a non-opiate way to handle chronic pain"

          Try medical cannabis. Major post-operative neuropathic pain after getting a fair bit of my skeleton replaced. Worked just as well as Oxy 40mg.

          There's research going on regarding sea slug toxins. I'm really interested in that, because if I could be pain-free without needing to resort to smoking/vaping/eating cannabis, I'm down for it.

          The problem with these pills is some of them can permanently alter brain chemistry. It's not a good idea to chemically alter the brain in this way unless you know for certain it wont be permanent. Cannabis isn't permanent, and all the new drugs being created should have their side effects known. Some people should never ever use oxys or any pain pills because they have the genes of an addict, for these people there should be different classes of drugs that are non-addictive. The problem is when these new pi

          • by Khyber (864651)

            If the permanent altering is the blocking of a targeted section of nerves, I'm all for it. I'll even lab rat for it, you just don't know the pain I'm in. Fuck animal and simulated testing, I'll be the first to say "Stick me with the needle, let's see what this does."

        • Actually cannabis isn't as benign as people think it is. I used to smoke it a long time ago... and not a weekend warrior either. For more than ten years. I had to stop because it started giving me panic attacks. It wasn't fun or relaxing any more. I have talked to many others with the same experience, so I know it isn't just me. And there is compelling research that teens who smoke dope have a statistically higher incidence of schizophrenia later in life. And yeah regardless of all that, I have thought abou
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        And most especially so that I wouldn't have had to endure the physical and emotional effects when weening myself off that shit after the surgery took away almost all the pain (my doc was totally surprised when I told him I was off the shit several months after the surgery... without his help). I think getting off opiates messes you up almost as long as the injury.

        I know someone who suffers from chronic back pain due to a curvature of her spine and related complications.

        Her old pain specialist had her on mor

        • by HybridST (894157)

          I've used codeine for severe tooth pain when i had a split wisdom tooth but i found it to not so much kill the pain as only fog my mind so i didn't care so much about it. I've also tried vicodin which at a low dose removed the pain entirely for about 4 hours at a time. Truthfully though the very best remedy i ever found for such pain is a double-dose of ibuprofin and a normal dose every 3 or so hours after. For me it took down the swelling in the tissues and removed pressure from the underlying nerves.

          Of co

      • by elucido (870205)

        I can't tell you how much I hope they manage to find a non-opiate way to handle chronic pain. I'm not on them any more, but they are a bitch even when they make life bearable. But there is a difference between physical and emotional pain. I know it's a fact that one can lead to the other (I've experienced it) but normally they have different causes/initiators. And if you can nip one in the bud fast enough, it will stop the spill over effect to the other.

        I had a really pinched nerve in my back before (L5/S1) caused by a ruptured disk. Really bad... could barely walk, and not more than a few paces without assistance (and sometimes lying down in just the right position was the only way I could be). Incredible pain, permanent nerve damage, partial paralysis of some muscles in the leg (most of which has come back), and incredible pain where even a mostly nonreligious person like myself would sometimes be reduced to praying for it to stop. Lasted about 9 or 10 months till surgery fixed it about 70%. Yay.

        I would have loved something like this if it meant I wouldn't have had to deal with opiates like 80mg Oxycontin to make life livable. And most especially so that I wouldn't have had to endure the physical and emotional effects when weening myself off that shit after the surgery took away almost all the pain (my doc was totally surprised when I told him I was off the shit several months after the surgery... without his help). I think getting off opiates messes you up almost as long as the injury. People don't get it: once you've had that harsh shit in your system for more than a few months, and at high doses (2 or 3 80s a day... and no it didn't stop all the pain but managed it), just getting it out of your system is the start. It tickles that part of the brain so long and so hard that you literally have a hole in your psyche that doesn't fill in for months and months and months and .... You know something is missing. And then there is the recovering from the emotional turmoil that the pain caused. Put the two together and it took at least a year or so to find an even keel for me. And I know I can be an irritable and maybe :) and irritating fuck at the best of times... but I was a champion then.

        I didn't like being on it because it makes you dull. But unlike what many think, it doesn't totally incapacitate you and you can function. Anyway... I hope like hell they find something to help people with chronic pain that works and is more benign than what is out there now. I don't like having to take acetaminophen or NSAIDs [wikipedia.org] every day. I could probably argue for low dose oxys from my doc, but I don't fucking want those... period. Here's to the folks at McGill!

        How do we know this stuff is any better or safer than the opiates? Opiates suck but at least we know they work, we don't know if this works and we don't know what side effects it could have.

        • That's why they're researching it. They didn't say it is out for general consumption. I'm just hoping it is better than opiates because the likelihood of a relapse is fairly high, and I would rather not have to go through the whole fogged out get clean cycle again.
    • by Ster (556540)

      He never said that. The movie you think you're quoting doesn't exist. I bet you think they made sequels to The Matrix too.

      </denial>

      -Ster

    • by elucido (870205)

      "You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!"

      It depends on the amount of pain. Pain should definitely be managed, lessened, dulled, but to remove it completely can remove whatever lessons that pain was supposed to teach. Too much pain is bad, but no pain at all causes problems in itself and can be bad.

  • by Fished (574624)

    Robert Heinlein called this Lethe in Time enough for love.". Once again, he's anticipated reality

  • Pain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @08:19PM (#39040161)
    Pain is probably one of the most mysterious things the body experiences. Recent studies have shown that the distinctions between physical and emotional pain are often blurred because emotional pain can become physical pain. Emotional pain can create real, actual physical ailments and this is why there is great emphasis in studying depression in humans. Current thinking that depression causes undue cardiovascular stress and can possibly accelerate alzheimers and have other deleterious effects on the brain. Depression can cause pain. This study is exciting because it just might cure depression versus just using medicines to mitigate it.
    • "Why are you so sad?"
      I do not know!
      "There is nothing to be sad about then."
      I fear much.

      Something is missing.

      A recent conversation I had with my machine intelligence, Netty, after I shortened the memcache to improve performance. You know, the more I study "AI", the more insight I gain into our own minds...

    • If memories can be erased what better threat than to threaten to wipe someones memories?

      I think the idea is shortsighted and will have unintended consequences.

  • OK, so what would Arthur Janov do?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      OK, so what would Arthur Janov do?

      Dunno. But I know what Jesus Would Do.

      He'd smack you hard on the head so you fell down, and yell into your face

      "This is a WAKEUP call from GOD. Get UP and LEAVE your pain BEHIND! Do it NOW! HALLELUJAH! It's a MIRACLE!"

  • by schlachter (862210) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:09PM (#39040615)

    Seems like the article makes a logical leap that erasing memories will somehow help ease chronic pain. How so? Does the memory of the pain cause new pain of a similar sort to become more intense? Don't make me RTF just because the summary is making unsupported statements.

    • It seems like the enduring memory would certainly magnify the pain, in the same way that we flinch in anticipation of pain even though it ultimately makes it hurt worse to tense up so much.
      • Re:the leap? (Score:5, Informative)

        by repapetilto (1219852) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @09:45PM (#39040825)

        No, this didn't have to do with conscious memories. This study was about the neurons in your spinal cord "remembering" pain from a tissue that is no longer sending painful signals. They placed a little blood pressure cuff thing around a rats ankle to limit blood flow for 3 hours, then removed it... this process damaged the tissue. A couple weeks later the tissue was healed, but the circuits in the spinal cord were altered to make the rat still feel pain in that paw. They then injected a compound into the spinal cords of some rats that apparently relieved the chronic pain. I don't see any control

        • Sorry... I was saying I don't see any control showing how much "pain" normal animals have though. So it is hard to say how strong the effects are.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          So basically, if the nerves are wires then chronic pain may very well be a short?

          • I guess imagine a circuit carrying a pain signal going from your foot to brain with a high pass filter in your spine. There is a constant low frequency signal (low firing rate) coming from the pain receptors your foot, but when it is hurt the frequency increases (high firing rate). The high pass filter has a potentiometer that will adjust positively in response to a sustained high frequency signal (ie more signal passing leads to increased resistance leads to lower cutoff frequency).

            Your body wants you to b

            • by Ihmhi (1206036)

              It doesn't entirely make sense to me, but then again I know more about EE than I do neuroscience. It did give me some nice insight. Thanks.

        • by elucido (870205)

          In that case Slashdot should have chosen a better title. Either way the concept of trying to erase pain at the source doesn't necessarily solve the problem. The pain exists as part of an alert system, if the limb is removed then it might make sense to change the alert system but why not use hypnotherapy for something like that?

          I think the medical community over relies on pills. Pills aren't the only type of treatment that exists and unless pills are the most effective treatment then why push them?

          • Well they are saying that this chronic pain (ie no longer serving as part of the alert system) is due to aberrant growth (sort of like the short circuit mentioned above). The way they treated it was a very local injection of some peptides that inhibit the stabilization of the new growth. You wouldn't want to give this as a pill unless you could attach the peptide to something that binds a biomarker specific to new growth, in a certain type of neuron in the spinal cord, and then you would have to get that ar

    • by sjames (1099)

      What do you think a summary is? It is expected to hit the highlights and leave the supporting information to the article it summarizes.

    • by sjames (1099)

      The phenomenon is well documented elsewhere. TFA didn't make any leaps, it just left that further research up to the reader. It's sometimes called 'windup'.

      Others have noticed that treatment with ketamine can reverse windup, but few enjoy a ketamine trip. Treatment with a strong topical capsaicin while under a local seems to help as well, but it's no cure.

  • I wonder if the interrogation folks will turn this idea on its head, and develop ways to implant pain into subjects' brains. As is, "we are not going to physically harm you, but you will think and feel as if we had!" And it leaves behind no physical evidence of abuse.

    This would be very ugly.

    • by johnvile (2560845)
      what at rubbish idea.
    • by elucido (870205)

      I wonder if the interrogation folks will turn this idea on its head, and develop ways to implant pain into subjects' brains. As is, "we are not going to physically harm you, but you will think and feel as if we had!" And it leaves behind no physical evidence of abuse.

      This would be very ugly.

      Thats a concern. This is why all this neuroscience stuff should be studied carefully. Knowing how the brain works is nice but it also is dangerous if the people who know dont respect your brain.

  • And I'm sure the military and governments have interesting plans for this.

HELP!!!! I'm being held prisoner in /usr/games/lib!

Working...