The Neuroscience of Pain

A primer on the neurobiology of pain pathways. Two nerves communicating on a microscopic level. The sensation of pain is a necessary function that warns the body of potential or actual injury. It occurs when a nociceptor fiber detects a painful stimulus on the skin or in an internal organ (peripheral nervous system).1 The detection of that signal is “picked up” by receptors at the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and brainstem and transmitted to various areas of the brain as sensory information. The facilitators of this pathway are known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are endogenous chemical messengers that transmit signals across a chemical synapse, from one neuron to another “target” neuron, muscle cell, or gland cell.2 Some neurotransmitters are excitatory, facilitating transmission of messages, while others are inhibitory neurotransmitters, impeding…


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