Robert Burton of Salon wrote an interesting piece that discusses both the field of prescription drug marketing and how fMRI brain scans have been used to show that pain is “real.”

Fibromyalgia is a condition in which patients seem to experience more pain than non-sufferers. Fibromylgia is thought to be stimulated by mental states like anxiety and depression, but no specific measures like blood tests, X-rays, autopsies, etc., demonstrate any evidence of the condition. The only thing that physicians have to work with is the subjective descriptions of the patients as to their pain level. Now, fMRI brain scans which show more pain-related brain activation in fibromyalgia sufferers may open the floodgates for pharmaceutical companies to offer products like Lyrica to treat the condition. Of course, what the fMRI is showing is that the patient is experiencing a higher level of pain than normal, not that there is a specific organic reason for the pain.

This whole discussion gets into the fascinating area of expectations and individual experience: […]