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Airing Pain 68: The Brain and the Genes

The sci­ence behind pain and its treat­ment, and why under­stand­ing it matters

This edi­tion has been fund­ed by a grant from the Scot­tish Government.

If some­one steps on your toe, your toe hurts – sim­ple as that, right? Wrong! Pro­fes­sor Rolf-Detlef Treede explains how the brain and ner­vous sys­tem make pain and why we can feel pain in a part of the body that hasn’t been harmed. It’s not just a ques­tion of good sci­ence, Treede argues – bet­ter under­stand­ing will decrease dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple in pain.

Genes also have a role to play in the sto­ry of pain, says Pro­fes­sor Ana Valdes. Her research is help­ing to explain why some peo­ple devel­op con­di­tions such as fibromyal­gia, migraine or rheuma­toid arthri­tis and oth­ers do not based on dif­fer­ences in our make­up at the mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el. Even our psy­cho­log­i­cal respons­es to pain are affect­ed by dif­fer­ences in the ner­vous sys­tem. Valdes believes these more sophis­ti­cat­ed approach­es to pain offer hope of effec­tive treat­ment in the future.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Neu­ro­science, genet­ics, ner­vous sys­tem, risk fac­tor, fibromyal­gia, cat­a­stro­phiz­ing, brain sig­nals, pain per­cep­tion, neu­ro­path­ic pain, anti­de­pres­sants, comor­bidi­ties, biopsy­choso­cial, noci­cep­tive, hyper­sen­si­tiv­i­ty, pain mem­o­ry and CBT: cog­ni­tive behav­iour­al therapy.


  • Ana Valdes, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor and Read­er, Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine & Health Sci­ences, Uni­ver­si­ty of Nottingham
  • Rolf-Detlef Treede, Pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro­phys­i­ol­o­gy, Hei­del­berg Uni­ver­si­ty, Germany.


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