In Melanie Thernstrom’s article “My Pain, My Brain”, she describes the struggle of living with chronic pain syndrome, but more importantly, the new-found hope she gathered from learning about and undergoing a new Neuroimaging technique using f.M.R.I. machines. The process works by portraying a picture of the nerve-firing activity in a certain portion of the brain, the rACC, responsible for pain-modulation. The goal is for subjects such as Thernstrom to learn to increase and decrease pain levels by interacting with the visualization of the pain in their mind. The effects are possible because pain is a complex perception that includes unpleasant physical sensation, as well as an emotional experience towards the pain. If one can change the way he or she thinks about the pain, it is possible to actually alter the feeling of pain that is perceived.
Thernstrom commands reader attention with the personal attachment to the subject she conveys. The hope that seeps through the lines makes it irresistible to find yourself drawn in to the article, eager as she is for a true solution. She establishes a trust with the reader by so illustrating her own relevance as well as demonstrating clearly a vast amount of research on the topic. I appreciate how she approaches her argument from both a scientific viewpoint as well as a more emotional take. There is an abundance of factual evidence provided, but also towards the end of the article her sources explain more of the conceptual details about what exactly Neuroimaging is providing access to. Using the excellent metaphor of watching a symphony in a silent movie, Thernstrom conveys the gap of experience that neuron activity does not breach for consciousness.
The passion layered behind the science in this article really drew me in, along with the hint at a philosophical debate about the gains and challenges to having access to altering consciousness. I also appreciated Eden Weiss’ blog about having herself experience chronic pain and Neuroimaging techniques successfully. Hearing firsthand experiences of scientific studies is a fabulous way to learn about them, in a way that makes the information and curiosity really stick.