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Dr. Zafirides Worrying Activates Pain Centers In The Brain, Study

Discussion in 'Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner)' started by Peter Zafirides, Nov 7, 2012.

  1. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician

    Hi Everyone,

    I thought this study would be of interest to you. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that emotions (in this case, math anxiety) activated pain centers in the brain, resulting in painful physical symptoms.


    It is always good to see research being done into the mind-body connection of emotions and pain.

    I hope the information is helpful to you.

    Dr. Z
  2. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    I too found math painful ! Really interesting article, though. I wonder if " The higher a person’s anxiety about math, the more anticipating math activated the posterior insula—a fold of tissue located deep inside the brain just above the ear that is associated with registering direct threats to the body as well as the experience of pain." is left over from some kind of primal drive/trigger to survive ?
  3. Shabda-girl

    Shabda-girl Peer Supporter

    Thank you so much for posting this article. It is a great reminder and confirmation. And while this study focuses on math anxiety, having had many years of experience with my own generalized anxiety disorder, I can confirm that the study also pertains to anxiety about anything. It was just really great for me to read this and be reminded that all of my increased anxiety (due to an impending out-of-state move in six days) that I am currently experiencing, is definitely causing my TMS pain. I'm sure I will need to re-read it a few more times to keep reminding myself. Thanks again.
  4. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician


    Thank you for your kind words and welcome to the forum! Remember, our mind will do whatever it needs to do in order to protect us from threatening (or painful) emotions like anger, anxiety and rage.

    Never doubt your strength. You are so powerful!!

    Welcome aboard! It's great to have you here!

    - Dr. Z
  5. RikR

    RikR Well known member

    Worry send a threat response to the limbic system which activates the HPA axis and stress response. This reduces GABA and serotonin which are neurotransmitters that control nervous system arousal (pain reactivity) and increases glutamate (NMDA) that increases pain sensitivity.

    The protective limbic system can not distinguish a thought from a reality and will respond much the same. Worry is often a childhood neuropath way (habit) that starts as a way to attempt to predict future threats. With the limited cortex a child believes they can outguess what might come next, children also can have a skewed sense of personal power and responsibility. “Daddy left it is my fault”

    Worry is a habit – a habit is a process track in the brain that happens automatically and usually beneath our awareness. In a process called the Hebbian response we have made a direct pathway (habit) that links thought= threat then worry.

    Remember when you could not drive a car without thinking about every detail. Now you can drive, listen to the radio, talk to a friend,eat and maybe even put on makeup. That is a conditioned process habit. You have committed to process that when you are in a car and it is going down the road certain things have to happen.

    Now when you think a threatening thought the brain falls into that old record track...now I must worry and the conditioned process starts. Part of our psyche has come to believe that worry means safety.

    Best worry antidote: can I do ANYTHING about it right this second – if no, then forget about it.
  6. RikR

    RikR Well known member

    Math anxiety is simply performance anxiety – anytime you don’t feel up to the task it can create anxiety...and a move is a huge task with lots of adjustments, uncertainty and stress.

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