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A Pathway for Novel Therapeutics

Chronic pain conditions are associated with abnormalities in brain structure and function.

Moreover, some studies indicate that brain activity related to the subjective perception of chronic pain may be distinct from activity for acute pain. However, the latter are based on observations from cross-sectional studies.

In a subset of subacute back pain patients, we followed brain activity for back pain longitudinally over a 1-year period, and compared brain activity between those who recover (recovered acute/sub-acute back pain group) and those in which the back pain persists.

Brain activity for back pain in the early, acute/subacute back pain group is limited to regions involved in acute pain, whereas in the chronic back pain group, activity is confined to emotion-related circuitry. Reward circuitry was equally represented in both groups. In the recovered acute/subacute back pain group, brain activity diminished in time, whereas in the persistent acute/subacute back pain group, activity diminished in acute pain regions, increased in emotion-related circuitry, and remained unchanged in reward circuitry.

Dr. Apkarian’s research integrates brain imaging, psychophysiology, and computational modeling to understand the neural, and biobehavioral mechanisms that underlie chronic pain and chronic pain modulation.

His research focus has been on mechanistic pharmacological randomized controlled trials for both prevention and treatment of chronic muscoloskeletal pain. These include opioid, antidepressant, and dopaminergic pharmacotherapies, with an aim of understanding mechanisms by which these drugs work to relieve pain, as well as for prediction of treatment outcomes.

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August 16, 2019
11:15 am - 12:00 pm
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