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Suffering and Bioethics$
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Ronald M. Green and Nathan J. Palpant

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199926176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.001.0001

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Biology of Suffering

Biology of Suffering

Chapter:
(p.106) 6 Biology of Suffering
Source:
Suffering and Bioethics
Author(s):

Daniel Krashin

Natalia Murinova

Catherine Q. Howe

Jane Ballantyne

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.003.0006

Human suffering is multidimensional. Pain, an important but not sole cause of suffering, has its own complex network of sensors throughout the body, which send nerve signals to the brain. This network can become more or less sensitive to pain in response to the guidance of our brain. Physical pain is therefore a kind of motivator for behavior, at the same time that it is shaped by our emotions and thoughts. Disturbances of the brain, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, are also potent sources of suffering. These psychiatric conditions are associated with changes in brain chemistry, hormone balance, and genetic expression physically, as well as deficits in social support and family life. The pain of social exclusion is expressed through the same brain circuits that mediate physical pain. This insight into the unity of emotional and physical suffering may help guide researchers, doctors, and caregivers who seek to ameliorate suffering.

Keywords:   suffering, nociception, pain, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, social exclusion

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