Questions for Owww! The science of pain


Before reading

  1. Have you ever felt an intense pain? What was its source? How long did it last?
  2. List some ways pain can cause you to change your behavior.

During reading

  1. What happens to people born with no ability to feel pain?
  2. How does pain protect us? Provide examples.
  3. Define “acute” and “chronic” when used to describe pain.
  4. What role does the nervous system play in pain?
  5. What two kinds of heat can TrpV1 detect?
  6. What is inflammation?
  7. Define “pain memory.”
  8. Explain how the thermal grill illusion works.
  9. Describe what fMRI technology has revealed about people who are extra sensitive to pain.
  10. What is the link between COMT and pain sensitivity?

After reading

  1. Some of the research discussed in this story suggests that genetic differences might explain why people have different limits for tolerating pain. Some people are just more sensitive than others. Explain some of the possible advantages to being more sensitive to pain. Now give some benefits to being less sensitive to pain.
  2. People often take medication to dull or eliminate any pain they feel. Given what you have learned about the role pain can have on behavior, explain why or when dampening pain might be a bad idea. Provide at least two examples to support your argument.


  1. Why are guard dogs, pepper spray and barbed wire sometimes used to protect people and property? What link do they share with pain?