Brain circuits for pain and its treatment

Nicole Mercer Lindsay, Chong Chen, Gadi Gilam, Sean Mackey*, Grégory Scherrer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Pain is a multidimensional experience with sensory-discriminative, affective-motivational, and cognitive-evaluative components. Pain aversiveness is one principal cause of suffering for patients with chronic pain, motivating research and drug development efforts to investigate and modulate neural activity in the brain’s circuits encoding pain unpleasantness. Here, we review progress in understanding the organization of emotion, motivation, cognition, and descending modulation circuits for pain perception. We describe the molecularly defined neuron types that collectively shape pain multidimensionality and its aversive quality. We also review how pharmacological, stimulation, neurofeedback, surgical, and cognitive-behavioral interventions alter activity in these circuits to relieve chronic pain.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbereabj7360
JournalScience Translational Medicine
Issue number619
StatePublished - 10 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

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