• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Chronic Pain, Shrinking Brain

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a study that links chronic back pain with brain shrinkage.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: why the mall is where it’s at in America. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: Back pain is a common affliction for many, but its effects appear to go beyond simply crimping the ability to bend down. It can also cause the brain to shrink.

That’s according to a team of researchers at Northwestern University. They found that chronic back pain reduced the amount of gray matter in the brains of 26 test subjects by as much as 11 percent. That’s roughly the same amount lost during ten to 20 years of normal aging. Gray matter is the part of the brain that processes information and controls memory.

In an article in the current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers discovered the shrinkage after reviewing the brain scans of people who suffered constant back pain for a year or longer. Scientists think the stress of prolonged suffering might overwork neurons in certain parts of the brain and cause them to atrophy.

They are now looking into the question of whether these reductions in gray matter are reversible. That’s this week’s Health Note, I’m Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: Ford, maker of the Escape Hybrid. A full hybrid SUV able to run on electric power alone at certain speeds. Ford vehicles dot com back slash environment; The Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving Math and Science instruction from kindergarten through grade 12; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and, The Kellogg Foundation, helping people help themselves by investing in individuals, their families, and their communities. On the web at w-k-k-f dot org. This is NPR -- National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: Galactic “Something’s Wrong with this Picture” AIN’T NO FUNK LIKE N.O. FUNK (Bullseye Blues & Jazz – 1998)]



Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth