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Flesh still relevant

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Modern pain science is largely concerned with the role of the nervous system — pain is an “output of the brain,” a generated experience, and does not reside “in” the flesh. This perspective has yielded many priceless insights into how pain works (and how weird it is). But …

But it’s not the whole picture, of course, and we will never grok pain solely in terms of neurology. The nervous system is dazzling, but let’s not forget that it’s stacked on top of much older and richly functional bio “tech”: cellular biology is just as dazzling in its own way. The nervous system itself is just an extraordinary organization of cellular biology into something greater than the sum of its parts: every stitch of it is still ultimately relying on the dance of enzymes and ions and hormones. Synapses are just short range hormonal communication. It’s all just more cell tricks, spectacularly organized chemistry.

In short, the flesh and its failings are still important parts of how pain works.

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