Beijing: Neuroscientists have established in a new study that the human body's peripheral nervous system is capable of interpreting its environment and modulating pain. This finding can change the understanding of pain medication, the study found.
So far it was believed that only the central nervous system could actually interpret and analyse sensations like pain or heat.
However, researchers from the Hebei Medical University in China and the University of Leeds highlights a crucial new role for the ganglia, a collection of 'nodules'.
"We found the machinery for neuronal communication did exist in the peripheral nervous system's structure. It is as if each sensory nerve has its own 'mini-brain', which to an extent, can interpret incoming information," said Nikita Gamper, who led the research at both universities.
"We also found the peripheral nervous system has the ability to alter the information sent to the brain, rather than blindly passing everything on to the central nervous system," Gamper added.
The new study opens up possibilities for developing new drugs that are targeted at peripheral nervous system instead of those targeting the central nervous system which have side effects including addiction and tolerance issues.
The findings have potential future implications for the development of new pain-killers, including drugs to target backache and arthritis pain, the paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation noted.
"This dramatically changes our understanding of pain medication because in theory it is now possible to target drugs at the peripheral nervous system which could widen the type of treatments available," stated Xiaona Du, Professor at Hebei Medical University.