Pain is a funny thing (well it’s not the funny if you’re in pain). Perception of pain, some would argue, is a largely psychological phenomenon which is influenced greatly by the mind. Be it the mind making you feel pain in a limb that doesn’t exist, or you mind blocking out pain so that you can continue with an activity; the mind obviously has a powerful influence over perception of pain and provides evidence against it being a purely physiological perception.
Interesting new research conducted in Japan recently have shown that if you see something painful happening to someone else, you experience something similar to that yourself. You perceive the pain of the other person even though nothing is happening to you.
The brain powerfully modulates pain, as a function of the context in which an injury arises, and as a function of your ongoing expectations about â€œhow much it SHOULD hurtâ€. If thugs beat me up in an alley, I might feel little pain when I realize that I am damn lucky that the beating is over, and I have survived it. On the other hand, it might hurt like hell once it sinks in that Iâ€™m going to be unemployed for weeks, with no food on the table for my family. [quote]
Pain, or at least the perception of pain, is a fascinating topic which is gaining increasing attention as ways of measring brain activity are becoming every better and more accessible. There are some excellent commentaries on pain and the perception of pain by Dr. Michael Merzenich over at his blog (more specifically here, here and here). Also related to his is the effect of placebos and noceboes on the perception of pain.