Pain processing is faster than tactile processing in the human brain

Ploner, M., Gross, J., Timmermann, L. and Schnitzler, A. (2006) Pain processing is faster than tactile processing in the human brain. Journal of Neuroscience, 26(42), pp. 10879-10882. (doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2386-06.2006)

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Pain signals threat and drives the individual into a behavioral response that significantly depends on a short stimulus-response latency. Paradoxically, the peripheral and spinal conduction velocities of pain are much slower than of tactile information. However, cerebral processing times and reaction times of touch and pain have not yet been fully assessed. Here we show that reaction times to selective nociceptive cutaneous laser stimuli are substantially faster than expected from the peripheral conduction velocities. Furthermore, by using magnetoencephalography, we found that latencies between earliest stimulus-evoked cortical responses and reaction times are ~60 ms shorter for nociceptive than for tactile stimuli. These findings reveal that cerebral processing of pain is substantially faster than processing of tactile information and relatively compensates for the slow peripheral and spinal conduction velocities of pain. Our observation shows how the cerebral organization of pain processing enhances motor responses to potentially harmful stimuli and thereby subserves the particular behavioral demands of pain.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gross, Professor Joachim
Authors: Ploner, M., Gross, J., Timmermann, L., and Schnitzler, A.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Neuroscience
Journal Abbr.:J. neurosci.
Publisher:The Society for Neuroscience
ISSN (Online):1529-2401

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