One compelling argument for the legalization of medical marijuana is its ability to ameliorate intense pain. Currently available technologies have helped us gain understanding of cannabis, as well as its more-commonly-accepted opioid counterparts, and the affects they have on pain.
In 2010, as an attempt to gain insight on pain’s function in the brain, Oxford University conducted a study using fMRI machines and the standard tricks of psychology. Volunteers were monitored during zaps of pain to their feet.
Some areas, they were told, had the potential to be unsafe. In those spots, the volunteers reported their pain levels as being higher. In reality, all of it was safe. Interestingly, in the fMRI machines, the anterior insula lit up before they were ever zapped. Thinking about, anticipating and fearing pain caused their brains to assume—caused them to feel—the physical sensation of pain.
It’s all in the way human brains are hardwired. The parts of the brain where emotions are processed (the limbic system) are directly connected to the parts where physical stimuli are detected (the somatosensory cortex).
This wiring is what gives us the definition of pain, as according to The International Association for the Study of Pain: “An unpleasant and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” In essence, it is your brain telling you that somewhere in your body, something is wrong.
By Kylie “Tee” Toponce
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