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Papers of the Week

Papers: 6 Mar 2021 - 12 Mar 2021

Human Studies

2021 Feb 22

J Clin Med



Medial Prefrontal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Aimed to Improve Affective and Attentional Modulation of Pain in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients.


Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is often without clear underlying pathology. Affective disturbance and dysfunctional pain mechanisms, commonly observed in populations with CLBP, have, therefore, been suggested as potential contributors to CLBP development and maintenance. However, little consensus exists on how these features interact and if they can be targeted using non-invasive brain stimulation. In this pilot trial, 12 participants completed two phases (Active or Sham) of high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to the medial prefrontal cortex, applied for 20 min on three consecutive days. Clinical pain ratings, questionnaires, and sensitivity to painful cuff pressure were completed at baseline, then 4 trials of conditioned pain modulation (CPM; alone, with distraction using a Flanker task, with positive affect induction, and with negative affect induction using an image slideshow) were performed prior to HD-tDCS on Day 1 and Day 4 (24 h post-HD-tDCS). At baseline, attentional and affective manipulations were effective in inducing the desired state ( < 0.001) but did not significantly change the magnitude of CPM-effect. Active HD-tDCS was unable to significantly alter the magnitude of the shift in valence and arousal due to affective manipulations, nor did it alter the magnitude of CPM under any basal, attentional, or affective manipulation trial significantly on Day 4 compared to sham. The CPM-effect was greater across all manipulations on Day 1 than Day 4 ( < 0.02) but also showed poor reliability across days. Future work is needed to expand upon these findings and better understand how and if HD-tDCS can be used to enhance attentional and affective effects on pain modulation.