Archive for the ‘pain’ Category

by Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC

The social transmission of emotions has been reported in several studies in recent years. Research published in 2013, for example, found that joy and fear are transmissible between people, while a 2011 study showed that stress — as measured by an increase in cortisol — can be transmitted from others who are under pressure.1,2 Results of a new study that appeared in Science Advances suggest that pain may also be communicable.3

“Being able to perceive and communicate pain to others probably gives an evolutionary advantage to animals,” study co-author Andrey E. Ryabinin, PhD, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University, told Clinical Pain Advisor. Such awareness may trigger self-protective or caretaking behaviors, for instance, that facilitate the survival of the individual and the group.
In the current study, Ryabinin and colleagues investigated whether “bystander” mice would develop hyperalgesia after being housed in the same room as “primary” mice who had received a noxious stimulus. In one experiment, the paws of primary mice were injected with complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA), which, as expected, induced persistent hypersensitivity that was apparent for 2 weeks. Bystander mice who had been injected with phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) similarly demonstrated hypersensitivity throughout the same 2-week period.

Bystander mice also displayed acquired hypersensitivity in another set of experiments in which primary mice experienced pain related to withdrawal from morphine and alcohol. This suggests that the transfer of hyperalgesia is not limited to the effects of inflammatory stimuli. In addition, the transfer was consistent across mechanical, thermal, and chemical modalities of nociception.

Tests revealed that nociceptive thresholds returned to basal levels in both primary and bystander mice within 4 days, and the transferred hyperalgesia was not accounted for by familiarity, as the effects were similar between mice that were not familiar with the others and those that were.
Finally, the authors determined that the transfer of hyperalgesia was mediated by olfactory cues (as measured by exposing naïve mice to the bedding of hypersensitive co-housed mice), and it could not be accounted for by anxiety, visual cues, or stress-induced hyperalgesia.

Future research is needed to pinpoint the molecular messenger involved in the transfer of hyperalgesia, and whether a similar process occurs in humans.

“Here we show for the first time that you do not need an injury or inflammation to develop a pain state–pain can develop simply because of social cues,” said Dr Ryabinin. These findings have important implications for the treatment of chronic pain patients. “We cannot dismiss people with chronic pain if they have no physical pathology. They can be in pain without the pathology and need to be treated for their pain despite lack of injury.”

Dezecache G, Conty L, Chadwick M, et al. Evidence for Unintentional Emotional Contagion Beyond Dyads.PLoS One. 2013; 8(6): e67371.
Buchanan TW , Bagley SL, Stansfield RB, Preston SD. The empathic, physiological resonance of stress. Soc Neurosci. 2012; 7(2):191-201.
Smith ML, Hostetler CM, Heinricher MM, Ryabinin AE. Social transfer of pain in mice. Sci Adv. 2016; 2(10): e1600855.


By Jasper Hamill

Experts fear it’s only a matter of time before robots declare war on humans.

Now the tech world has taken one small step toward making this nightmare scenario a reality.

An American engineer has built the world’s first robot that is entirely designed to hurt human beings.

The pain machine breaks the first rule in science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s famous “laws of robotics,” which states that machines should never hurt humans.

“No one’s actually made a robot that was built to intentionally hurt and injure someone,” robot designer and artist Alexander Reben told Fast Company.

“I wanted to make a robot that does this that actually exists.

“[It was] important to take it out of the thought experiment realm into reality, because once something exists in the world, you have to confront it. It becomes more urgent. You can’t just pontificate about it.”

Luckily for us humans, the pain-bot is not quite the shotgun-wielding death machine depicted in the “Terminator” films.

Its only weapon is a small needle attached to a long arm, which is used to inflict a small amount of agony on a human victim.

The robot randomly decides whether to attack people who are brave enough to put their hands beneath its arm, although it’s not strong enough to cause major injury.

Reben said the aim of the project wasn’t to hasten the end of humanity. Instead, he wants to encourage people to start discussing the prospect that robots could soon have some terrifying powers.

“I want people to start confronting the physicality of it,” Reben says. “It will raise a bit more awareness outside the philosophical realm.”

“There’s always going to be situations where the unforeseen is going to happen, and how to deal with that is going to be an important thing to think about.”

Last year, world-famous British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking claimed robots and artificial intelligence could wipe humans off the face of the planet.

Billionaire Elon Musk agrees, having spent much of the past few years warning about the apocalyptic scenario of a war between man and machine.

Both Hawking and Musk signed a letter last year urging world leaders to avoid a military robotics arms race.

It is likely that the battles of the future will involve machines capable of killing without needing to be directed by a human controller.

“[Robotic] weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group,” the letter said.

“We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity.”