News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.


The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

Common Brain Mechanisms of Chronic Pain and Addiction

By Igor Elman and David Borsook | Neuron | January 6, 2016


While chronic pain is considered by some to be a CNS disease, little is understood about underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Addiction models have heuristic value in this regard, because both pain and addictive disorders are characterized by impaired hedonic capacity, compulsive drug seeking, and high stress. In drug addiction such symptomatology has been attributed to reward deficiency, impaired inhibitory control, incentive sensitization, aberrant learning, and anti-reward allostatic neuroadaptations. Here we propose that similar neuroadaptations exist in chronic pain patients.

Read the rest of the paper here.

Triptans Disrupt Brain Networks and Promote Stress-induced CSD-like Responses in Cortical and Subcortical Areas

By , , , , , , and 


A number of drugs, including triptans, promote migraine chronification in susceptible individuals. In rats, a period of triptan administration over 7 days can produce “latent sensitization” (14 days after discontinuation of drug) demonstrated as enhanced sensitivity to presumed migraine triggers such as environmental stress and lowered threshold for electrically induced cortical spreading depression (CSD). Here, we have used fMRI to evaluate the early changes in brain networks at day 7 of sumatriptan administration that may induce latent sensitization as well as the potential response to stress. Following continuous infusion of sumatriptan, rats were scanned to measure changes in resting state networks and the response to bright light environmental stress. Rats receiving sumatriptan, but not saline infusion, showed significant differences in default mode, autonomic, basal ganglia, salience, and sensorimotor networks. Bright light stress produced CSD-like responses in sumatriptan treated but not control rats. Our data show the first brain related changes in a rat model of medication overuse headache and suggest that this approach could be used to evaluate the multiple brain networks involved that may promote this condition.

Read the full article here.

Pain and Spinal Cord Imaging Measures in Children with Demyelinating Disease

By Nadia Barakat, Mark P. Gorman, Leslie Benson, Lino Becerra, and David Borsook | NeuroImage: Clinical | September 6, 2015


Pain is a significant problem in diseases affecting the spinal cord, including demyelinating disease. To date, studies have examined the reliability of clinical measures for assessing and classifying the severity of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and also to evaluate SCI-related pain. Most of this research has focused on adult populations and patients with traumatic injuries. Little research exists regarding pediatric spinal cord demyelinating disease. One reason for this is the lack of reliable and useful approaches to measuring spinal cord changes since currently used diagnostic imaging has limited specificity for quantitative measures of demyelination. No single imaging technique demonstrates sufficiently high sensitivity or specificity to myelin, and strong correlation with clinical measures. However, recent advances in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and magnetization transfer imaging (MTI) measures are considered promising in providing increasingly useful and specific information on spinal cord damage. Findings from these quantitative imaging modalities correlate with the extent of demyelination and remyelination. These techniques may be of potential use for defining the evolution of the disease state, how it may affect specific spinal cord pathways, and contribute to the management of pediatric demyelination syndromes. Since pain is a major presenting symptom in patients with transverse myelitis, the disease is an ideal model to evaluate imaging methods to define these regional changes within the spinal cord. In this review we summarize (1) pediatric demyelinating conditions affecting the spinal cord; (2) their distinguishing features; and (3) current diagnostic and classification methods with particular focus on pain pathways. We also focus on concepts that are essential in developing strategies for the detection, monitoring, treatment and repair of pediatric myelitis.

Read the full article here.

The Insula: A “Hub of Activity” in Migraine

By David BorsookRosanna Veggeberg, Nathalie Erpelding, Ronald Borra, Clas LinnmanRami Burstein, and Lino Becerra | The Neuroscientist | August 19, 2015


The insula, a “cortical hub” buried within the lateral sulcus, is involved in a number of processes including goal-directed cognition, conscious awareness, autonomic regulation, interoception, and somatosensation. While some of these processes are well known in the clinical presentation of migraine (i.e., autonomic and somatosensory alterations), other more complex behaviors in migraine, such as conscious awareness and error detection, are less well described. Since the insula processes and relays afferent inputs from brain areas involved in these functions to areas involved in higher cortical function such as frontal, temporal, and parietal regions, it may be implicated as a brain region that translates the signals of altered internal milieu in migraine, along with other chronic pain conditions, through the insula into complex behaviors. Here we review how the insula function and structure is altered in migraine. As a brain region of a number of brain functions, it may serve as a model to study new potential clinical perspectives for migraine treatment.

Read the full paper here.

Taking the Headache out of Migraine

By David Borsook and David W. Dodick | Neurology | August 2015


Migraine is a disease that contributes to major disability. Perhaps because migraine attacks are not immediately life-threatening per se and individuals return to a “normal” state between attacks, it is not taken seriously. However, migraine is associated with a number of comorbidities, including psychiatric disease, stroke, and other chronic pain disorders. Current acute treatments for episodic migraine are relatively effective, but preventive treatments for episodic and chronic migraine are far less so. Recent functional imaging studies have shown that the disease affects brain function and structure (either as a result of its genetic predisposition or as a result of repeated attacks). The current evidence in the pain field is that changes observed in brain function and structure may be reversible, adding credence to the notion that treating the disease aggressively and early may be beneficial to patients. Here we suggest a change in our approach to a disease that is currently not treated with the urgency that it deserves given its global prevalence, disease burden, and effects on brain function.

Read the full article here.