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gate-control theory

the hypothesis that the subjective experience of pain is modulated by large nerve fibers in the spinal cord that act as gates, such that pain is not the product of a simple transmission of stimulation from the skin or some internal organ to the brain. Rather, sensations from noxious stimulation impinging on pain receptors have to pass through these spinal gates to the brain in order to emerge as pain perceptions. The status of the gates, however, is subject to a variety of influences (e.g., drugs, injury, emotions, possibly even instructions coming from the brain itself), which can operate to shut them, thus inhibiting pain transmission, or cause them to be fully open, thus facilitating transmission. Compare pattern theory; specificity theory. See also gating mechanism. [first proposed in 1965 by Canadian psychologist Ronald Melzack (1929–  ) and British neuroscientist Patrick D. Wall (1925–2001)]

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Psychology term of the day

May 26th 2024



adj. responding to, releasing, or otherwise involving catecholamines. For example, a catecholaminergic neuron is one that releases norepinephrine or another catecholamine as a neurotransmitter.