This Is Why You Feel Pain

When you're in severe pain, it swallows up your entire world. But the neurological process of feeling pain comes down to just a few neurochemical pathways. Now, scientists are unraveling the mystery of the chemistry underlying our "pain sensor," and one day this could ease our suffering. » 3/31/14 2:52pm 3/31/14 2:52pm

Why do we feel the pain of bad guys more than the good guys?

Whether it be in movies or real life, we don’t tend to feel sorry for the villains. But strangely, and even a bit disturbingly, we often empathize more with the pain they experience. A new study offers a potential answer to this puzzling phenomenon — and it may have something to do with wanting to keep our enemies… » 10/17/13 8:00am 10/17/13 8:00am

Are pain and itchiness the same thing?

If you'd asked that question a few years ago, neuroscientists might have scratched their heads (heh) and shrugged. The sensation of pain and what scientists call "itchy" are so closely linked in your brain that it's almost impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. But a new study has changed all that. » 10/09/13 12:47pm 10/09/13 12:47pm

Scientists Succeed In Objectively Measuring Pain

In a much needed breakthrough, neuroscientists have developed a technique to predict how much physical pain people are feeling by looking at images of their brain scans. » 4/11/13 8:20am 4/11/13 8:20am

When it comes to obsessing about death, Woody Allen has nothing on the…

If you remember the Fraggles as brightly colored, fun-loving creatures partying underground, I have some unsettling news for you: The Fraggles were fucked up. They were more obsessed with death — theirs, others, yours —than any other creature on the planet, as this mind-boggling two-minute video proves. » 4/03/13 2:40pm 4/03/13 2:40pm

Breakthrough research suggests simple ways to reverse chronic pain

People who suffer from chronic pain often feel like the experience dominates their lives, and changes them profoundly. Now, a group of pain researchers and geneticists have discovered that this feeling isn't far from scientific truth. Being in chronic pain changes the way your brain functions on a physical level. The… » 3/27/13 6:54pm 3/27/13 6:54pm

Why do paper cuts hurt so much, and what do they have to do with…

As SciAm's Ferris Jabr explains in the video up top, the short answer is: nociceptors. Many animals have these sensory neurons. Some animals have weird ones. Take naked mole rats, for example — NMRs have mutated sodium channels that limit physiologically "normal" nociceptor firing, thereby blunting sensations of pain. » 11/08/12 12:20pm 11/08/12 12:20pm

Should we eliminate the human ability to feel pain?

In yesterday's Daily Explainer we told you all about pain — why it exists, how it works, and how scientists are trying to quantify its effects. Though pain has clearly served an important evolutionary purpose, not everyone is convinced that we still need it. A growing number of forward-looking thinkers are suggesting… » 9/27/12 9:00am 9/27/12 9:00am

Why do we experience physical pain?

There's no doubt about it: Pain sucks. We all hate it — and some people go to immense lengths to try and get rid of chronic pain. And yet, it's a constant part of human experience. But why do people feel physical pain? How does it even work? And does everybody feel pain the same way? » 9/26/12 11:20am 9/26/12 11:20am

Naked mole rats' indifference to acid might help relieve human pain

We've long touted the awesomeness of the cancer-free, ultra-long-lived, acid-resistant naked mole rats, and we even suggested that they'll inherit the Earth from us. But while we're still around, let's see if we can't benefit from these remarkable rodents. » 9/23/12 5:00pm 9/23/12 5:00pm

10 Painful Insect Stings, as Measured by Science

Getting stung by a fire ant hurts. Getting stung by a tarantula hawk hurts much, much more. But how much more does it hurt, exactly? And where does something like a honey bee rank on the pain scale? » 5/21/12 10:33am 5/21/12 10:33am

Mice grimace after vasectomies

Both mice and men can find vasectomies a pain. That's what grimaces on the faces of the rodents suggest, thanks to our improved understanding of how rodents express pain. » 4/28/12 1:30pm 4/28/12 1:30pm

Scientists created a pain measurement scale by burning the hands of…

In the 1940s, a group of doctors at the University of Cornell set out to create a unit of pain intensity. Using the "dol" as a unit, the physicians created a 21-point quantitative scale, but through unusual means — testing pain reactions on medical students and women in labor between contractions. They did this by… » 4/11/12 11:00am 4/11/12 11:00am

The Secret to Eliminating Chronic Pain Forever?

Chronic pain is one of the hardest ailments to treat. You can keep medicating it forever, but over time people build up a tolerance for painkillers. Many people struggle with chronic pain for years. But today, researchers announced they may have found one way to get rid of at least some types of chronic pain forever. » 1/12/12 11:00am 1/12/12 11:00am

The naked mole rat can't feel pain from acid burns. Now we know why.

The naked mole rat is quickly becoming one of my favorite mammals ever. The glabrous little buggers live decades longer than most other rodents, never develop cancer, and have mastered the enviable skill of being able to run backwards as quickly as they do forwards. » 12/16/11 12:00pm 12/16/11 12:00pm

Why snake venom causes such horrifying pain


What is it about the bite of the famous Texas coral snake that makes it so excruciatingly painful for so long? New research has pinpointed the cause, and it literally makes your nerves feel like they're being dipped in acid. » 11/18/11 10:20am 11/18/11 10:20am

How over-the-counter painkillers could also help with social awkwardness

Imagine that the pain you feel from a physical injury and a bad social interaction aren't just metaphorically linked...they're actually two aspects of the exact same thing. So does that mean you could take aspirin to soothe your interpersonal pain? » 10/23/11 11:40am 10/23/11 11:40am

Laughter might not cure you, but it'll make it hurt less.

As the unhelpful platitude goes, laughter is the best medicine. Well, it might not be able to cure anything, but laughter does seem to stop the pain. New research published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society links social laughter to a boosted pain threshold. The researchers ran tests in both labs and the wild —… » 9/16/11 5:00pm 9/16/11 5:00pm

An objective way to measure pain? It's closer than you think.

Many doctors rely on patients to indicate levels of pain and discomfort, and while these self-reports are certainly subjective, they can still provide physicians with valuable clinical information. But what happens when patients are unable to talk with their doctors, like in cases of severe cognitive or communicative… » 9/13/11 3:21pm 9/13/11 3:21pm

A single mutant gene is responsible for 30% of all mysterious pain

In the United States alone, 20 million people suffer from peripheral neuropathy, a condition that involves nerve degeneration and sometimes extreme pain, often without any explanation. Now we've found the culprit for this mysterious pain...and it's all one gene's fault. » 6/22/11 3:00pm 6/22/11 3:00pm