In this article, Melanie Thernstrom describes her experience with an experimental new technology that is designed to have a person calm their own feelings of pain by actively trying to control the portions of the brain that cause them. By having a monitor project her brain activity, she was able to try various tactics to see if it resulted in any change in her pain levels. The ultimate goal in these experiments was to see if there was a way for people to develop a method to “reprogram” their brain, so their chronic pain could be alleviated permanently.
I thought that this article offered us a glimpse into the incredible complexities of the human mind. She mentions the placebo effect, which in and of itself is an amazing phenomenon. The concept that the brain could emulate the effects of drugs that were designed to create some kind of chemical response in the brain without the actual presence of the drug itself is mind boggling. I feel that this shows just how much we fail to appreciate the brains capabilities for fixing itself. The brain knows what it should do to fix whatever is ailing it. Admittedly this doesn’t always work; the chronic pain Thernstrom experiences is an example of this. And yet, she describes another impressive feat the brain is capable of. Mind over matter is not a new concept, in fact, people swear by this method as a means to overcome any kind of adversity. The extraordinary acts we occasionally people doing are a reflection of this. Whether it is walking on hot coals, or breaking a brick over your head, mind over matter is the core concept. The idea that you could have an intensive training session where you learn to control this ability to benefit you in a multitude of ways is something that I feel is not only amazing, but a very valid step in the advancement of medicine in general.