Nature 561, 547–550 (2018)
Pain is felt by individual neurons in different parts of the body and then relayed by the spinal cord on to the brain to be processed. But whether and how the brain can control the perception of pain has been unclear. A new paper in Nature suggests pain sensitivity is controlled by corticospinal projects.
These are neurons that descend from the cortex of the brain to the spinal cord. They interact with dorsal horn neurons in the spinal cord, which receive sensory information from elsewhere in the body. Through several means of activating and de-activating different neurons in mice, the researchers established that the corticospinal projections in the brain can modulate sensitivity to both innocuous touches and painful ones.