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Papers of the Week

Papers: 12 Jan 2019 - 18 Jan 2019

Animal Studies, Human Studies

2019 Jan 29

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A



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Neural indicators of perceptual variability of pain across species.


Hu L, Iannetti GD
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jan 29; 116(5):1782-1791.
PMID: 30642968.


Individuals exhibit considerable and unpredictable variability in painful percepts in response to the same nociceptive stimulus. Previous work has found neural responses that, while not necessarily responsible for the painful percepts themselves, can still correlate well with intensity of pain perception within a given individual. However, there is no reliable neural response reflecting the variability in pain perception across individuals. Here, we use an electrophysiological approach in humans and rodents to demonstrate that brain oscillations in the gamma band [gamma-band event-related synchronization (γ-ERS)] sampled by central electrodes reliably predict pain sensitivity across individuals. We observed a clear dissociation between the large number of neural measures that reflected subjective pain ratings at within-subject level but not across individuals, and γ-ERS, which reliably distinguished subjective ratings within the same individual but also coded pain sensitivity across different individuals. Importantly, the ability of γ-ERS to track pain sensitivity across individuals was selective because it did not track the between-subject reported intensity of nonpainful but equally salient auditory, visual, and nonnociceptive somatosensory stimuli. These results also demonstrate that graded neural activity related to within-subject variability should be minimized to accurately investigate the relationship between nociceptive-evoked neural activities and pain sensitivity across individuals.