Expanding the Pain Map
(Workbook Page 36)
The brain learns pain the same way it learns anything else. As we master new tasks, signals are sent with increasing frequency back and forth from body and brain. We make new synapses to wire in these activities and, at the same time, break less used synapses. Because the brain has to budget its allotted supply of energy and a great deal of energy is devoted to making new synapses and maintaining old ones, we cannot make the new without breaking the old. Other processes occur simultaneously, including expansion of the actual brain territory devoted to this new learning, increased strength of nerve firing, increased frequency of nerve firing, rebalancing of brain and body responses via electrical circuits and molecular signaling and establishment of a new equilibrium in both brain and body to maintain this new learning.
This animation shows that when pain nerves fire and shut off, they do not steal nerve cells from neighboring networks involved in Empathy and Self-Soothing. When they demonstrate firing in long term potentiation, they steal nerve cells from the less stimulated Empathy network. At the same time, if the Self-Soothing network is not firing at all, it is taken over by the pain network. The result is that self-soothing becomes a lost function.
When the wiring is happening because of persistent pain signals, the same processes form new synapses dedicated to pain, while breaking other less active synapses in brain areas that process pain. Read the text on page 36 of the Neuroplastic Transformation workbook. The expanded pain map causes more pain and loss of other functions processed in these pain processing regions.
This animation shows the areas of the brain, which are the main pain perceiving regions with many of their other functions, as well. Due to the Rules of Neuroplasticity as pain processing areas expand the number of nerve cells dedicate to these other regional functions contract. The result is that by the very experienced persistent pain, pain circuitry is kept active, taking over more brain real estate. By counter stimulating these other functions that process can be reversed. The more we stimulate these other functions, the more they will "steal" nerve cells from the excessively expansive pain circuits. The result is decreased pain and restoration of normal function.
Look at the “Pain Makes Pain” graphic on page 36 of the Neuroplastic Transformation workbook. Picture the Substance-P being released pulling back into the nerve cell, instead of spreading out to more regions.