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How Neuroimaging Studies Have Challenged Us to Rethink: Is Chronic Pain a Disease?

  • Irene Tracey
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to Irene Tracey, Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics and Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, OX3 9DU, England, UK.
    Affiliations
    Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics and Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, England, UK
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  • M. Catherine Bushnell
    Correspondence
    M. Catherine Bushnell, Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, Department of Anesthesia and Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University, 3640 University Street, Room M19, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2B2.
    Affiliations
    Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, Department of Anesthesia and Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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      Abstract

      In this review, we present data from functional, structural, and molecular imaging studies in patients and animals supporting the notion that it might be time to reconsider chronic pain as a disease. Across a range of chronic pain conditions, similar observations have been made regarding changes in structure and function within the brains of patients. We discuss these observations within the framework of the current definition of a disease.

      Perspective

      Neuroimaging studies have made a significant scientific impact in the study of pain. Knowledge of nociceptive processing in the noninjured and injured central nervous system has grown considerably over the past 2 decades. This review examines the information from these functional, structural, and molecular studies within the framework of a disease state.

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