The Human Perception of Pain in Conjunction with the Mind-Body Problem

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The Human Perception of Pain in Conjunction with the Mind-Body Problem

There is more research surfacing supporting the notion that people can control their pain. What is left under-examined is the notion of whether the pain is mediated by the brain, mind, or both. We all know that pain is an instinctive "sense" if you will, necessary to the survival of all living beings. Without pain, it would go unrecognized and exacerbate to the point of death. Pain is a protective mechanism essential to survival. There are three important claims here: One is that pain is actually a perception. The second, is the brain mediates the suppression of pain through a "gate" in the spinal cord. Lastly, since pain is a perception, the mind may decide the degree to which the "gate" is open, which therefore influences to amount of pain reaching the brain. Recent research provides evidence that certain brain structures mediate the spinal cord gate. Still controversial is whether receptivity to pain is biological in origin and completely dependent on the brain, or whether the mind, the entity in an individual responsible for thought, and feelings, conscious or unconscious, controls the nervous system and in the end manipulates one's perception of pain.

Pain is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage" (1). When pain is described in these terms we can see that pain is a perception, sort of like seeing and hearing. When pain is processed there are a number of brain structures activated, commonly referred to as the "central pain matrix" (2). It may seem irrelevant to delve into pain signal activation in the brain since it is seemi...

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...that one's entire perception of pain may be conscious in origin and simply correlate to the mechanisms of the brain, rather than stem from just the brain entirely.


1)Pain Anatomy

2)The Human Perception of Pain

3)Brain Pain Pathways

4)Modification of pain within the spinal cord

5)The Skeptics Dictionary

6)Mind and Body Interactions


8)Mind and Body Wellness

9) Carlson, Neil R., Physiology of Behavior. Needham Heights: A Pearson Education Company, 2001.
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