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How the Brain Processes Pain

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Dr. Erol Onel has played a leadership role in the development of pain management therapeutics since 2008. Formerly the vice president of clinical research and medical information at Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Erol Onel now leads Heron Therapeutics' pain franchise in a similarly responsible role.

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How the Brain Processes Pain

  1. 1. How the Brain Processes Pain Erol Onel
  2. 2. Introduction  Dr. Erol Onel has played a leadership role in the development of pain management therapeutics since 2008. Formerly the vice president of clinical research and medical information at Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Erol Onel now leads Heron Therapeutics' pain franchise in a similarly responsible role. Clinicians refer to pain from tissue trauma as nociceptive pain. This pain begins with damage to nociceptors, structures contained within nerve endings in the affected area. Once stimulated by trauma, the nociceptors send electrical signals through the peripheral nervous system to the spinal cord. The first and sharpest pains travel along the A-delta fibers. The C-fibers follow with the throbbing and duller pain. Both signals travel from the spinal cord into the part of the brain known as the thalamus, which in turn notifies other areas of the brain that play a role in pain response.
  3. 3. Pain  Some of these neural regions have the capacity to communicate with the spinal cord and intensify or subdue feelings of pain. This is adaptive when the body must focus on other things and respond to the pain later. Other areas of the brain can identify the source of the pain signal, while the limbic system is busy attaching emotional and cognitive significance to the pain. This determines how the individual responds consciously to the pain and can even contribute to the intensity of the feeling. Chemical signals in the brain and spinal cord also contribute to how a person feels pain. Medical science is still working on determining how these processes work and how pharmaceuticals can affect them, so that physicians and care teams can more effectively respond to human beings who are hurting.

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