Brain oscillations differentially encode noxious stimulus intensity and pain intensity

Nickel, M. M., May, E. S., Tiemann, L., Schmidt, P., Postorino, M., Ta Dinh, S., Gross, J. and Ploner, M. (2017) Brain oscillations differentially encode noxious stimulus intensity and pain intensity. NeuroImage, 148, pp. 141-147. (doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.01.011) (PMID:28069543) (PMCID:PMC5349759)

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Abstract

Noxious stimuli induce physiological processes which commonly translate into pain. However, under certain conditions, pain intensity can substantially dissociate from stimulus intensity, e.g. during longer-lasting pain in chronic pain syndromes. How stimulus intensity and pain intensity are differentially represented in the human brain is, however, not yet fully understood. We therefore used electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate the cerebral representation of noxious stimulus intensity and pain intensity during 10 min of painful heat stimulation in 39 healthy human participants. Time courses of objective stimulus intensity and subjective pain ratings indicated a dissociation of both measures. EEG data showed that stimulus intensity was encoded by decreases of neuronal oscillations at alpha and beta frequencies in sensorimotor areas. In contrast, pain intensity was encoded by gamma oscillations in the medial prefrontal cortex. Contrasting right versus left hand stimulation revealed that the encoding of stimulus intensity in contralateral sensorimotor areas depended on the stimulation side. In contrast, a conjunction analysis of right and left hand stimulation revealed that the encoding of pain in the medial prefrontal cortex was independent of the side of stimulation. Thus, the translation of noxious stimulus intensity into pain is associated with a change from a spatially specific representation of stimulus intensity by alpha and beta oscillations in sensorimotor areas to a spatially independent representation of pain by gamma oscillations in brain areas related to cognitive and affective-motivational processes. These findings extend the understanding of the brain mechanisms of nociception and pain and their dissociations during longer-lasting pain as a key symptom of chronic pain syndromes.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gross, Professor Joachim
Authors: Nickel, M. M., May, E. S., Tiemann, L., Schmidt, P., Postorino, M., Ta Dinh, S., Gross, J., and Ploner, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:NeuroImage
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1053-8119
ISSN (Online):1095-9572
Published Online:07 January 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in NeuroImage 148:141-147
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
597051Natural and modulated neural communication: State-dependent decoding and driving of human Brain Oscillations.Joachim GrossWellcome Trust (WELLCOME)098433/Z/12/ZINP - CENTRE FOR COGNITIVE NEUROIMAGING