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Study on Brain Surprises My Brain. PTSD and Chronic Pain and How The Brain Continues to Be Mapped

Trauma and Experience

The NY Times ( covered a new article published in nature about PTSD experiences vs "sad" (non traumatic emotional events ie a family member or pet passing away) memories and how our brain processes them and how we “store them” for later use.

The actual article uses a word map personalized to each individual to represent their sad or PTSD experience, then use those words to determine any between patient similarities. They then have the individual speak and record their event and replay it numerous times while looking at a functional MRI of the hippocampus and amygdala portions of the brain. These two parts of the brain represent the historically accepted model of memory and emotion respectively.

I don’t want to go into great detail, the NYT article can explain it better than I can, but the most interesting finding is PTSD trauma does not evoke the hippocampus, which as far as we know, all other memories fire from. Instead, the re-experiencing of the PTSD comes from the amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC.) The PCC is where we spend our time with introspections, day dreaming, and a general map of ourselves. Meaning, instead of drawing from a “memory” PTSD events are actually relived again, over and over.

Why I find this so interesting is during my time earning my Therapeutic Pain Specialization, Dr. Addrian

Louw and crew did functional brain mapping and found we have nine areas of similar representation for pain. Just like in the NYT article, pain and PTSD appears to follow an overarching similarity map between subjects, but is unique to each person in how the areas are specially fired.

(The study looked at areas 2,4,8)

The unique nature of the brain maps should highlight why it is important if you are suffering from chronic, PTSD, fibromyalgia, complex regional, or stress related pain, to receive individualized, highly skilled therapy that incorporates at a minimum, biopsychosocial practices. Your pain, your experiences, your well-being, are all unique to you and should be respected and treated that way. I cannot accurately treat you without knowing what makes you, you.

Finally, I find it wildly interesting (as did the researchers) the brain separates the PTSD traumas from traditional “sad” experiences. How does this relate to pain you just can’t seem to beat? Is it working on a deeper and not quite understood layer of the brain matrix? Should we promote therapists to further their training in psychotherapy and blend the mind and body treatment to a greater level? I think yes, you cannot have a healthy body without a healthy mind.

A couple of tips for dealing with pain after reading this article:

1. Perform a whole system check using either connection based meditation or just really consider when you hurt. Maybe you’ll find a mental connection you may missed. (

2. Consider your relationship with pain. How do you view pain?

a. Do you avoid it at all costs?

b. View it as a beneficial learning tool?

c. Consider it just another warning system of the body?

Take time for yourself and body. With the increasing stress, constant state of anxiety, and general gloom surrounding most of the news, it is no surprise pain and mental health issues are on the rise. Through it all, I am here to help you through whatever ache or pain you may be experiencing. I look forward to forming a long lasting partnership.



If you are really interested in the article:

It's heavy.


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