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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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