Soft sounds can soothe mice to a point where they don’t feel pain, according to an international team of researchers working with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and China’s University of Science and Technology and Anhui Medical University.
What to know:
Low sounds seem to blunt neurologic signals between the auditory cortex, which receives and processes information about sound, and the thalamus, which acts as a relay station for sensory signals, including pain.
Using noninfectious viruses coupled with fluorescent proteins, scientists were able to trace connections between brain regions and identify a route from the auditory cortex to the thalamus.
In freely moving mice, low-intensity white noise at a volume of about 50 dB reduced the activity of neurons at the receiving end of the pathway in the thalamus, with the analgesic effects lasting up to 2 days after the mice stopped hearing the sound.
In the absence of sound, suppressing the pathway with light- and small molecule–based techniques mimicked the pain-blunting effects of low-intensity noise, whereas turning on the pathway restored the mice’s sensitivity to pain.
Uncovering the circuitry that mediates the pain-reducing effects of sound in mice adds critical knowledge that could ultimately inform new approaches for pain therapy in humans.
This is a summary of the article “Soft Sounds Numb Pain. Researchers May Now Know Why” published by Scienceon July 7, 2022. The full article can be found on science.org.
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