Scientists have shown for the first time that “tuning in” the brain to a particular frequency can alleviate chronic pain.
Chronic pain is often a mixture of recurrent acute pains and chronic persistent pain. About 20-50% of the general population suffers from chronic pain, which lasts for six months.
Nerve cells on the brain surface are coordinated with each other at a particular frequency depending on the state of the brain. Alpha waves tuned at 9-12 cycles per second have been recently associated with enabling parts of the brain concerned with higher control to influence other parts of the brain.
University of Manchester researchers said that alpha waves from the front of the brain, the forebrain, are associated with placebo analgesia and might be influencing how other parts of the brain process pain.
“This led to the idea that if we can ‘tune’ the brain to express more alpha waves, we may reduce pain experienced by people with certain conditions,” researchers said.
They found that this can be done by providing volunteers with goggles that flash light in the alpha range or by sound stimulation in both ears phased to provide the same stimulus frequency. Both visual and auditory stimulation significantly reduced the intensity of pain induced by laser-heat repeatedly shone on the back of the arm.