Chronic pain is a multidimensional experience with cognitive, affective, and somatosensory components that can be modified by expectations and learning. Individual differences in cognitive and affective processing, as well as contextual aspects of the pain experience, render chronic pain an inherently personal experience. Such individual differences are supported by the heterogeneity of brain representations within and across chronic pain pathologies. In this review, we discuss the complexity of brain representations of pain, and, with respect to this complexity, identify common elements of network-level disruptions in chronic pain. Specifically, we identify prefrontal-limbic circuitry and the default mode network as key elements of functional disruption. We then discuss how these disrupted circuits can be targeted through self-regulation and related cognitive strategies to alleviate chronic pain. We conclude with a proposal for how to develop personalized multivariate models of pain representation in the brain and target them with real-time neurofeedback, so that patients can explore and practice self-regulatory techniques with maximal efficiency.
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