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When considering the mind-body connection, René Descartes proposed a direct link between a diseased or injured organ and the brain—a view that has persisted until fairly recently. As scientists learn more about pain pathways, however, they are coming to see pain as a two-way street, shaped by a feedback loop between an injured organ or tissue and the brain. This revised view, along with developments in medical technology, has led some scientists to consider novel approaches to relieve chronic pain. The authors review current theories of pain and describe their own studies exploring the potential for gene therapy to modulate the perception of pain.

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