Obviously not every source of pain creates a full-blown
emergency with adrenaline-surging, sweat-pouring, pulse-racing
responses. Moreover, observers are well aware of times and
places when excruciating pain is ignored. Think of the
quarterback's ability to finish a game oblivious of a torn
ligament, or a fakir sitting on a bed of spikes. One of the
foremost pioneers in pain research adds his personal tale, too,
of the time he landed a salmon after a long and hearty struggle,
only then to discover the deep blood-dripping gash on his leg.
Acknowledging such events, neuroscientists have long
suspected that there are built-in nervous system mechanisms that
can block pain messages.
Now it seems that just as there is more than one way to
spread the news of pain, there is more than one way to censor the
news. These control systems involve pathways that come down from
the brain to prevent pain signals from getting through.
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