Speaker: MASSIEH MOAYEDI, University of Toronto, Dentistry
Title: How about this: Understanding pain-cognition interactions using a translational framework
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2018-2019
Abstract: Pain is the largest health-related burden on society, and interferes with cognitive processes, resulting in forgetfulness, an inability to focus, and difficulties in abstract thinking, problem solving and decision-making. A fundamental gap in our understanding of pain is the mechanism of this interference, which would serve as a powerful biomarker and therapeutic target for pain. Prevailing models of this interference rely on distraction, but these do not adequately fit behavioural data. Our imaging studies in chronic pain reveal a potentially different mechanism for this interaction. Specifically, the frontal polar cortex has abnormal structure and function in chronic pain. The frontal pole is implicated in cognitive branching -the ability to select a task based on its perceived value while tracking the perceived value of a competing task. Based on these findings, we propose that pain is not a distraction, but is a 'task' that competes for limited resources. We show novel behavioural data supporting this concept: painful stimuli, but not iso-salient, unpleasant somatosensory stimuli, adversely affect task performance on low-value task, but not a high value task. In sum, we provide evidence for a novel model of pain-cognition interactions in the human brain.
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