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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Apr 2021 - 30 Apr 2021

Human Studies

2021 Apr 21


Spatial and frequency-specific electrophysiological signatures of tonic pain recovery in humans.


Rustamov N, Sharma L, Chiang S, Burk C, Haroutounian S, Leuthardt EC
Neuroscience. 2021 Apr 21.
PMID: 33894311.


The objective of this study was to comprehensively investigate patterns of brain activities associated with pain recovery following experimental tonic pain in humans. Specific electrophysiological features of pain recovery may either be monitored or be modulated through neurofeedback as a novel chronic pain treatment. The cold pressor test was applied with simultaneous electroencephalogram (EEG) recording. EEG data were acquired, and analyzed to define: (1) EEG power topography patterns of pain recovery; (2) source generators of pain recovery at cortical level; (3) changes in functional connectivity associated with pain recovery; (4) features of phase amplitude coupling (PAC) as it relates to pain recovery. The novel finding of this study is that recovery from pain was characterized by significant theta power rebound at the left fronto-central area. The sources of theta power over-recovery were located in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), cingulate cortex, left insula and contralateral sensorimotor cortex. These effects were paralleled by theta band connectivity increase within hemispheres in a prefrontal-somatosensory network and interhemispherically between prefrontal and parietal areas. In addition, this study revealed significant reduction in PAC between theta/alpha and gamma oscillations during recovery period following tonic pain. These findings have largely been replicated across 2 identical sessions. Our study emphasizes the association between pain recovery and left lateral prefrontal theta power rebound, and significant over-recovery of functional connectivity in prefrontal-sensorimotor neural network synchronized at theta frequencies. These findings may provide basis for chronic pain treatment by modulating neural oscillations at theta frequencies in left prefrontal cortex.