I've put off writing this post for many years because I know it will be controversial. But we're a few days from Christmas, and I also know this post will be a wonderful gift for some people.
Chronic or intermittent pain, often located in the back, neck, and/or buttocks, is a major driver of personal suffering and reduced productivity in the US and other affluent nations. While pain can obviously have a variety of structural causes, such as sprained ankles or bruising, garden-variety back pain usually doesn't. I've come to believe that such pain is usually psychosomatic in nature-- in other words, caused by the brain but resulting in physical signs and symptoms in the body. It's widely accepted that a person's mental state can affect pain perception, but this idea goes further. Pain isn't just exacerbated by a person's mental state; it's often entirely caused by it.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Obesity involves changes in the function of brain regions that regulate body fatness and blood glucose, particularly a region called the hypothalamus. My colleagues and I previously showed that obesity is associated with inflammation and injury of the hypothalamus in rodent models, and we also presented preliminary evidence that the same might be true in humans. In our latest paper, we confirm this association, and show that hypothalamic injury is also associated with a marker of insulin resistance, independently of BMI.