The effect of THC on pain measures and brain activations in patients with chronic pain
Chronic pain is a prevalent problem worldwide, with millions of people suffering from various conditions such as chronic headaches, musculoskeletal problems and pain arising from the nervous system itself. Our aim is to understand the brain mechanisms mediating the analgesic effect of THC observed in chronic pain patients.
THC, the primary psychoactive substance in cannabis, has been implicated in the clinical benefit derived from cannabis use in different chronic pain conditions. Yet, despite a millennia of cannabis being used as an analgesic, the brain mechanisms underlying this effect are poorly understood.
This study is a double-blind intra-subject experiment in which patients suffering from chronic radicular pain undergo a fMRI scan before and after THC/ placebo administration. Measurements, such as questionnaires, a clinical interview, physiological pain tests and autonomic nervous system tests, are also taken before and after drug administration.
Our hypothesis is that the analgesic effect will be mediated through modulation of emotional networks in the brain.
The project is ongoing and is a collaborative effort with the center for Brain Functions and the Institute of Pain Medicine at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.
Dr. Sharon's current work combines research into what builds the subjective experience of the self in health and disease. He is especially interested in the neurobiology of pain and methods that can rapidly change this aversive experience in a noninvasive, brain-focused and patient-tailored manner. To that aim he combines advanced functional brain imaging, pharmacotherapy and noninvasive brain stimulation and modulation techniques in healthy individuals and in patients.