Not Much Grey Matter? You're Probably Immune to Pain

My husband thinks I'm a freak of nature and sometimes, I have to agree.  He can't believe my pain threshold, though I have to admit, the three tries (five attempts each) to jam my wristbone back into its socket (the first two times without morphine) did make me nauseous.

I'm a tank, he says, like my father, who drove himself to the hospital while having a heart attack.

But scientists are learning there's a little more to it than that.  A recent study found that that the brain’s structure is related to how intensely people perceive pain.  Turns out I have a lot of grey matter in my brain.

“We found that individual differences in the amount of grey matter in certain regions of the brain are related to how sensitive different people are to pain,” said Robert Coghill, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study, at
The brain is made up of both grey and white matter. Grey matter processes information much like a computer, while white matter coordinates communications between the different regions of the brain. 
“Subjects with higher pain intensity ratings had less grey matter in brain regions that contribute to internal thoughts and control of attention,” the Web site quotes Nichole Emerson, B.S., a graduate student in the Coghill lab and first author of the study. 
These regions are a set of connected brain areas that are associated with the free-flowing thoughts that people have while they are daydreaming, reports.
“Default mode activity may compete with brain activity that generates an experience of pain, such that individuals with high default mode activity would have reduced sensitivity to pain,” Coghill said. These areas in the brain play an important role in attention. Individuals who can best keep their attention focused may also be best at keeping pain under control, he added.
So, am I a freak or do I just focus really well? Not according to my husband, who is sick of trying to help me find my keys. But really, I've been through many surgeries in my life, after being diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, and what's the point of crying or carrying on?  I just grit my teeth and get through it.  Though I could have used the morphine on the first try.


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