A recent study has uncovered the thalamocortical mechanism for nostalgia-induced analgesia, which has previously been demonstrated to help with pain alleviation.
Have you ever observed that looking at old photos of special moments spent with family and friends makes sorrow go away? The thalamus, a crucial brain region for pain modulation, is also connected to the analgesic effect associated with nostalgia, according to study lead by Dr. Kong Yazhuo from the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to brain imaging studies, experiencing nostalgia may lessen various types of pain, including migraines, by lowering activity in brain regions related to pain perception.
A tiny part of the brain, the thalamus is connected to both the cerebral cortex and the midbrain by a large number of nerve fibres. It is situated between them slightly above the brain stem. The thalamus’ main job is to transmit sensory and motor information to the cerebral cortex. Additionally, it controls awake, alertness, and sleep. A tiny part of the brain, the thalamus is connected to both the cerebral cortex and the midbrain by a large number of nerve fibres. It is situated between them slightly above the brain stem.
An image that makes you yearn for the past is called a nostalgic image.
While connected to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) equipment and experiencing variable levels of pain from the heat generator linked to their wrist, the study subjects were shown various images associated with their youth. Activation of the anterior thalamus during the stage of nostalgia predicted activation of the posterior parietal thalamus during the stage of pain, according to the participants’ behavioural results. This suggests that the thalamus is a crucial component of the analgesic effect and serves as a central functional link.
Additionally, it was discovered that the strength of nostalgia was correlated with thalamus-periaqueductal grey functional connection. Functional connectivity between the PAG and dlPFC was discovered to be related to pain perception, suggesting potential analgesic modulatory pathways. More importantly, the results clarified the brain mechanism behind nostalgia’s analgesic impact.
Prof Cai said: “The current study results reveal that the thalamus, as a critical brain region for pain modulation, is also related to the analgesic effect associated with nostalgia.”
The researchers came to the conclusion that seeing nostalgic photographs decreased pain ratings, with low-intensity pain having the largest impact.