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The Neuroscience of Pain [The New Yorker]

 

Research is illuminating the neural patterns behind pain’s infinite variety.               Illustration by Anna Parini

Brain imaging is illuminating the neural patterns behind pain’s infinite variety

On a foggy February morning in Oxford, England, I arrived at the John Radcliffe Hospital, a shiplike nineteen-seventies complex moored on a hill east of the city center, for the express purpose of being hurt. I had an appointment with a scientist named Irene Tracey, a brisk woman in her early fifties who directs Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and has become known as the Queen of Pain. “We might have a problem with you being a ginger,” she warned when we met. Redheads typically perceive pain differently from those with other hair colors; many also flinch at the use of the G-word. “I’m sorry, a lovely auburn,” she quickly said, while a doctoral student used a ruler and a purple Sharpie to draw the outline of a one-inch square on my right shin.

To read the rest of this article by Nicola Twilley in The July 2, 2018 issue of   The New Yorker magazine, please click here. 

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