Sound and electrical body stimulation could treat chronic pain
Posted: 12 August 2022 | | No comments yet
A new technique could relieve pain for individuals with various chronic and neurological conditions.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, US have found that electrical stimulation of the body combined with sound activates the brain’s somatosensory or “tactile” cortex, increasing the potential for using the technique to treat chronic pain and other sensory disorders. The study was recently published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.
During the experiments, the researchers played broadband sound while electrically stimulating different parts of the body in guinea pigs. They found that the combination of the two activated neurons in the brain’s somatosensory cortex, which is responsible for touch and pain sensations throughout the body.
While the researchers used needle stimulation in their experiments, one could achieve similar results using electrical stimulation devices, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units. The researchers hope that their findings will lead to a treatment for chronic pain that is safer and more accessible than drug approaches.
“Right now, one of the ways that we try to treat pain is opioids, and we all know that does not work out well for many people. This, on the other hand, is a non-invasive, simple application. It is not some expensive medical device that you have to buy in order to treat your pain. It is something that we think would be available to pretty much anyone because of its low cost and simplicity,” explained Dr Cory Gloeckner, the lead author of the paper.
The researchers plan to continue investigating this “multimodal” approach to treating different neurological conditions, potentially integrating music therapy in the future to see how they can further modify the somatosensory cortex.
“A lot of people have been using acupuncture or electrical stimulation—non-invasive or invasive—to try to alter brain activity for pain,” said Professor Hubert Lim, senior author on the paper. “Our research shows that when you combine this with sound, the brain lights up even more.”
From these results, the researchers are planning clinical trials on humans.