Published in the September issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, a new study suggests further avenues are available for the research of treatment of chronic pain associated with multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer. The anterior cingular cortex (ACC) has been identified as the most stimulated region of the brain in pain processing.

And, responsible for transmitting pain signals to the ACC are channels called the hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels.

Where nerve damage exists, as in the case of multiple sclerosis, these HCN channels often have a heightened response to normal stimuli and therefore send incorrect messages to the pain centre, resulting in chronic pain.

The new study, conducted at the Montreal Neurological Institute and the Alan Edwards Center for Research on Pain, provides further insights into the role of the HCN channels and has shown that by blocking these channels, the hyperexcitability of the ACC was reduced, and feelings of pain were dramatically decreased. Senior author of the study, Dr. Philippe Séguéla, has confirmed that this finding gives researchers new perspectives on therapeutic strategies that could target the HCN channels to help relieve chronic pain.

"The ACC has been shown to be a key centre to cognitive functions linked to memory and affective functions involved in feelings and emotions. We know that patients who suffer from chronic pain experience impairment of their working memory, difficulties focusing on certain tasks and may suffer from depression and anxiety. Our findings open new doors to research possible treatment of these debilitating symptoms that are linked to chronic pain."