Congenital syndromes of pain and painlessness

Published on September 3, 2014   57 min

Other Talks in the Series: Molecular Genetics of Human Disease

Hello, my name is Geoff Woods, and I work in the Department of Medical Genetics in Cambridge. And I'm both a clinician and a researcher who works on Mendelian disorders of pain. The talk I'm giving you today is called congenital syndromes of pain, that's people who get excess pain, and painlessness, people who suffer no pain at all.
What is pain? Pain can be thought of in two different ways. It can be what we perceive as an unpleasant stimulus in our brain when we're conscious. But it is also the body recognizing when there's tissue damage, such as at the bottom picture with severe frostbite. Or also, more sophisticatedly, when tissues are about to be damaged if a stimulus continues. And often people differentiate pain, which is the tissue damage, from suffering, which is the perception of the tissue damage by our central nervous system.
How much pain is someone suffering? It's very difficult to tell, because there are no objective measures. We can observe pain by empathy, but we can't really grade how much pain one person is suffering compared to another person or compared to ourselves. And we also can't tell whether someone is in physical pain or emotional pain, or a mixture of the two. And this has made a lot of studies, pain, and analgesics very difficult.