Neuro-genetics of persistent pain
Lee M., Tracey I.
Pain is a complex consciousness that emerges from the brain, and is commonly a result of nociception; the physiological process initiated by activation of specialised high-threshold peripheral sensory neurons. When pain is persistent, its affective aspects can dominate and cause considerable suffering. This chronic pain state is not an inevitable consequence of physical injury or disease. Instead, susceptibility to chronic pain results from complex interactions between multiple genes and the environment that influence nociception and regulate the consciousness of pain. The biological bases for chronic pain can now be defined and measured by brain neuroimaging at a systems level, where penetrance of genetic variation should be higher when compared to syndromal phenotypes. To date, very few neuroimaging studies have attempted to connect brain activity associated with pain to genes. We review these together with other pertinent studies here, and suggest how neuroimaging endophenotypes might prove useful for the development of treatments for chronic pain. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.