Biology,  Pain

Pain Really Is All In Your Head And Emotion Controls Intensity

Positive emotions — like feeling calm and safe and connected to others — can minimize pain. But negative emotions tend to have the opposite effect.

Pain Really Is All In Your Head And Emotion Controls Intensity

FEBRUARY 18, 2015 4:03 PM ET

JON HAMILTON

When you whack yourself with a hammer, it feels like the pain is in your thumb. But really it’s in your brain.

That’s because our perception of pain is shaped by brain circuits that are constantly filtering the information coming from our sensory nerves, says David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind.

“The brain can say, ‘Hey that’s interesting. Turn up the volume on this pain information that’s coming in,’ ” Linden says. “Or it can say, ‘Oh no — let’s turn down the volume on that and pay less attention to it.’ “

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