Recently, a research has been conducted by the UNC School of Medicine. The researchers targeted on one region of the brain with the help of weak alternating current of electricity. This helps in increasing the naturally occurring brain rhythms of that particular region and decreases largely the symptoms that are closely related to chronic lower back pain. The researchers put to use this new noninvasive treatment strategy such as the transcranial alternating current stimulation, or tACStranscranial alternating current stimulation, or tACS.
The same technique may be used by doctors for the purposes of treating chronic pain. Flavio Frohlich, PhD, director of the Carolina Center for Neurostimulation and associate professor of psychiatry stated that they conduct researches every now and then but it is for the first time that they are studying chronic pain. It is the first time ever that all the three elements of a study are lined up together. Element 1: Targeting a specific brain region; Element 2: Enhancement or restoration of the brain activity; Element 3: Correlation between enhancement and decrease in symptoms. Julianna Prim, who is a graduate student mentored by Karen McCulloch, PT, PhD, in the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the UNC School of Medicine stated that if brain stimulation can help people with chronic pain, it will prove to be a cheap, non invasive therapy. It will definitely reduce the ill effects of opioids. A large number of the world’s population faces chronic pain. Some researchers and scientists believe that the activity of the brain plays a casual role in the occurrence of chronic pain. Usually it is believed that if one suffers from chronic pain, then the reason and the solution for such pain can both be found in the lower back spine region. On the contrary some other researchers are of the view that the condition is capable of reorganisation of how the cells in the nervous system communicate with each other including the networks of neurons in the human brain. As time passes by, the networks get stuck in a kind of neural rut, thereby becoming a reason of chronic pain. During the research, the scientists attached an array of electrodes with the scalps of the patients. During one session with the patients, researchers targeted somatosensory cortex using tACS to enhance the alpha waves. During another session, the researchers subjected the patients with a weak electrical current. During each session, the participants felt tingling on their scalp. They could not differentiate between the sham and tACS sessions. Neither did the researchers know when each patient was subjected to this current. When surveyed, it was found that each of the patients reported a reduction in their pain. The present study is a perfect example of an appropriate combination of scientists and clinicians.
By: Anuja Arora