News Column

Teaching the brain to reduce pain

July 12, 2014





People can be conditioned to feel less pain when they hear a neutral sound, new research from the University of Luxembourg has found. This lends weight to the idea that we can learn to use mind-over-matter to beat pain.

Scientists have known for many years that ongoing pain in one part of the body is reduced when a new pain is inflicted on another part of the body. This pain blocking is a physiological reaction by the nervous system to help the body deal with a potentially more relevant novel threat, Medical Xpress reported.

To explore this "pain inhibits pain" phenomenon, painful electric pulses were first administered to a subject's foot (first pain) and the resulting pain intensity was then measured.

Then the subject was asked to put their hand in a bucket of ice water (novel stimulus causing pain reduction), and as they did so, a telephone ringtone sounded in headphones.

After this procedure had been repeated several times, it was observed that the pain felt from the electrical stimulation was reduced simply when the ringtone sounded.

The brain had been conditioned to the ringtone being a signal to trigger the body's physical pain blocking mechanism.

The people being tested not only felt significantly less pain, but there were also fewer objective signs of pain, such as activity in the muscles used in the facial expression of pain (frowning).

In total, 32 people were tested.

 

 

Silicon oxide for better

computer memory

Rice University's breakthrough silicon oxide technology for high-density, next-generation computer memory is one step closer to mass production, thanks to a refinement that will allow manufacturers to fabricate devices at room temperature with conventional production methods.

First discovered five years ago, Rice's silicon oxide memories are a type of two-terminal, "resistive random-access memory" (RRAM) technology. Now, a Rice team led by chemist James Tour compared its RRAM technology to more than a dozen competing versions, Science Daily wrote.

"This memory is superior to all other two-terminal unipolar resistive memories by almost every metric," Tour said. "And because our devices use silicon oxide, the most studied material on Earth, the underlying physics are both well-understood and easy to implement in existing fabrication facilities."

Tour is Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry and professor of mechanical engineering, nanoengineering and computer science.

The basic concept behind resistive memory devices is the insertion of a dielectric material, one that won't normally conduct electricity, between two wires. When a sufficiently high voltage is applied across the wires, a narrow conduction path can be formed through the dielectric material.

The presence or absence of these conduction pathways can be used to represent the binary 1s and 0s of digital data.

Research with a number of dielectric materials over the past decade has shown that such conduction pathways can be formed, broken and reformed thousands of times, which means RRAM can be used as the basis of rewritable random-access memory.

Teaching the brain to reduce pain


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Source: Iran Daily


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