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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Jun 2019 - 5 Jul 2019

2020 Jan - Feb

J Pain



Are functional brain alterations present in low back pain? A systematic review of EEG studies.


Schouppe S, Van Oosterwijck S, Danneels L, Van Damme S, Oosterwijck J V
J Pain. 2020 Jan - Feb; 21(1-2):25-43.
PMID: 31260806.


This systematic review analyzed available literature on functional brain alterations in low back pain (LBP) measured with electroencephalography (EEG), as until now evidence thereof was unclear. Four electronic databases were systematically searched the 10 of March 2018, resulting in 12 included studies. Studies showed a risk of bias of 37.5%-75% using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for case-control studies. Limited evidence reported higher amplitudes of balance-related potentials and early components of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP) to noxious stimuli, and altered feedback-related negativity and P300 potentials during decision-making in chronic LBP (CLBP). These findings suggest postural strategies requiring a higher cortical attention-demand, increased sensory-discriminative processing of noxious input, and altered decision-making in CLBP. However, further research is warranted as these inferences were based on single studies. Moderate evidence for unaltered amplitude of late-phase SEPs to noxious stimuli and auditory evoked potentials in LBP implies that the affective-emotional processing of stimuli might be unaffected in LBP. Furthermore, moderate evidence indicated disturbed habituation of somatosensory stimuli in LBP. Most studies examined non-specific or mixed CLBP populations, hence EEG-quantified brain activity in (sub)acute or recurrent LBP still needs to be explored. Perspective: This review presents an overview of the current understanding of the functional LBP brain measured with EEG. The limited evidence in current research suggests altered cortical function regarding balance control, somatosensory processing and decision making in LBP, and highlights opportunities for future EEG-research.