Dr. Melissa Farmer on Pain and Emotional Learning
Welcome to the third episode of the Better Movement Podcast, featuring Dr. Melissa Farmer. Melissa has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from McGill University, and did postdoctoral research in pain neuroscience at Northwestern University. She spent several years working at the lab of Dr. Vania Apkarian, where she helped produce a fascinating line of research about the brain’s role in chronic pain. I discussed this research in a previous blog post here, and the basic gist is this: there are differences between the brains of people with and without chronic pain, and these can be observed on MRI. Some of these differences involve increased activity in areas related to emotional learning, and these may play a causal role in the transition between acute and chronic pain.
In this podcast, we discuss this line of research as well as:
the limits of MRIs in detecting what someone is actually thinking or feeling
whether MRIs can find a neural “signature” for pain
the connection between chronic pain and emotional learning
the value of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy in treating chronic pain
Melissa’s most recent project with Aivo Health, an app for helping people with chronic pain.