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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 Jul 2020 - 31 Jul 2020

Human Studies

2020 Jul 22


A nociresponsive specific area of human somatosensory cortex within BA3a: BA3c?


Panchuelo R SM, Eldeghaidy S, Marshall A, McGlone F, Francis ST, Favorov O
Neuroimage. 2020 Jul 22:117187.
PMID: 32711068.


It is well recognized that in primates, including humans, noxious body stimulation evokes a neural response in the posterior bank of the central sulcus, in Brodmann cytoarchitectonic subdivisions 3b and 1 of the primary somatosensory cortex. This response is associated with the 1st/sharp pain and contributes to sensory discriminative aspects of pain perception and spatial localization of the noxious stimulus. However, neurophysiological studies in New World monkeys predict that in humans noxious stimulation also evokes a separate neural response-mediated by C-afferent drive and associated with the 2nd/burning pain-in the depth of the central sulcus in Brodmann area 3a (BA3a) at the transition between the somatosensory and motor cortices. To evoke such a response, it is necessary to use multi-second duration noxious stimulation, rather than brief laser pulses. Given the limited human pain-imaging literature on cortical responses induced by C-nociceptive input specifically within BA3a, here we used high spatial resolution 7T fMRI to study the response to thermonoxious skin stimulation. We observed the predicted response of BA3a in the depth of the central sulcus in five human volunteers. Review of the available evidence suggests that the nociresponsive region in the depth of the central sulcus is a structurally and functionally distinct cortical area that should not be confused with proprioceptive BA3a. It is most likely engaged in interoception and control of the autonomic nervous system, and contributes to the sympathetic response to noxious stimulation, arguably the most intolerable aspect of pain experience. Ablation of this region has been shown to reduce pain sensibility and might offer an effective means of ameliorating some pathological pain conditions.