Scientists Experiment with How Human Brain Processes Pain
Robert Coghill, professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist (WFB) lead a study to explain how pain is registered differently within the general population.
Coghill said: “We found that individual differences in the amount of grey matter in certain regions of the brain are related to how sensitive different people are to pain.”
Less grey matter, which is associated with processing information, is observed in participants who were linked to having more acute receptivity to pain.
Researchers analyzed MRI scans from 116 volunteers to decipher their brain structure.
The study reads: “In search of an anatomical correlate of pain sensitivity, we used voxel-based morphometry to investigate the relationship between grey matter density across the whole brain and interindividual differences in pain sensitivity in 116 healthy volunteers (62 women, 54 men).”
Participants were asked to rate their pain level when a portion of their arm was exposed to heat of 48.8 degrees Celsius.
MRI scans, when combined with explanations by the participants, showed that lower amounts of detectible grey matter was correlated with the control of attention when the person experienced pain.
Nichole Emerson, graduate student and participant with Coghill, said: Subjects with higher pain intensity rating had less grey matter in brain regions that contribute to internal thoughts and control of attention.”
The study concludes: “These findings underscore the potential importance of processes related to default mode thought and attention in shaping individual differences in pain sensitivity and indicate that pain sensitivity can potentially be predicted on the basis of brain structure.”
With the release of this study, Coghill’s team hopes that by understanding how pain is registered and received in the brain, doctors and psychiatrists can develop tools for diagnosis and use new techniques to deal with certain mental states.
The Human Connectome Project (HCP) is dedicated to “understanding the complete details of neural connectivity.” They endeavor to “construct a map of the complete structural and functional neural connections in vivo within and across individuals.”
By compiling data on genetics, behavior, matter fiber pathways, and functional correlations, the HCP have refined and optimized “the spatial and functional resolution of our connectome neuroimaging” as well as acquiring “high resolution neuroimaging data” to enhance understanding of the “neuroanatomical connectedness of the human brain.”
Two years ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) diverted $2 billion of their yearly budget for research into creating a super solider as well as developing a synthetic police force.
Working with the human genome, DARPA hopes to manipulate certain gene expressions. In experimentation, DARPA and the military industrial pharmaceutical complex are using natural abilities that are enhanced through genetic engineering.
Some of the medical feats DARPA would like to enhance are the ability of military soldiers to regrow limbs destroyed in battle.
By eliminating empathy, the Department of Defense (DoD) hopes to “enhance” a soldier’s ability to “kill without care or remorse, shows no fear, can fight battle after battle without fatigue and generally behave more like a machine than a man.”
Scientists are researching the construction of soldiers that feel no pain, terror and do not suffer from fatigue as tests on the wiring of the human brain are furthered by Jonathan Moreno, professor of bioethics at Pennsylvania State University.
Moreno is working with the DoD in understanding neuroscience.
The Pentagon allocated $400 million to this research.
In the PNAC, the use of scientific enhancement and clinical trials could be turning our service men and women into gueinia pigs for the advancement of a super solider.
While Roger Pitman , professor of psychiatry at Harvard University is experimenting with propranolol which is a beta blocker that is believed to erase “terrifying memories”, soldiers are subjected to more research while serving to alleviate the psychological effects of war.
Moreno explains: “The problem is: what else are they blocking when they do this? Do we want a generation of veterans who return without guilt?”
Allan Snyder, professor of neuroscience in Australia, has been working to understand how transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can effect higher mental processing with the use of magnetic fields to promote unfettered reasoning.
The US Academy of Sciences reported in 2009 that they expected to be successful in using TMS against soldiers to “enhance [their] fighting capabilities.”
Moreno reveals that TMS helmets could be used in battlefields to expand a soldier’s technical expertise and become a more proficient marksman and master electronics used in training exercises.