Pain processing in the brain and Gate control theory of pain

The experience of pain is complex and subjective, and is affected by factors such as cognition (eg distraction or catastrophising), mood, beliefs and genetics. The somatosensory cortex is important for the localisation of pain. However, imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have demonstrated that a large brain network is activated during the acute pain experience. This is often called the ‘pain matrix’.  There are mechanisms that act to inhibit pain transmission at the spinal cord level and via descending inhibition from higher centres

The gate control theory of pain was proposed by Melzack and Wall in 1965 to describe a process of inhibitory pain modulation at the spinal cord level. It helps to explain why when we bang our head, it feels better when we rub it. By activating Aβ fibres with tactile, non-noxious stimuli inhibitory interneurones in the dorsal horn are activated leading to inhibition of pain signals transmitted via C fibres .



Leave a comment