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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 Dec 2021 - 10 Dec 2021

2021 Dec 01


Descending pain modulatory efficiency in healthy subjects is related to structure and resting connectivity of brain regions.


Huynh V, Lütolf R, Rosner J, Luechinger R, Curt A, Kollias S, Michels L, Hubli M
Neuroimage. 2021 Dec 01:118742.
PMID: 34863962.


The descending pain modulatory system in humans is commonly investigated using conditioned pain modulation (CPM). Whilst variability in CPM efficiency, i.e., inhibition and facilitation, is normal in healthy subjects, exploring the inter-relationship between brain structure, resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) and CPM readouts will provide greater insight into the underlying CPM efficiency seen in healthy individuals. Thus, this study combined CPM testing, voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and rsFC to identify the neural correlates of CPM in a cohort of healthy subjects (n=40), displaying pain inhibition (n=29), facilitation (n=10) and no CPM effect (n=1). Clusters identified in the VBM analysis were implemented in the rsFC analysis alongside key constituents of the endogenous pain modulatory system. Greater pain inhibition was related to higher volume of left frontal cortices and stronger rsFC between the motor cortex and periaqueductal gray. Conversely, weaker pain inhibition was related to higher volume of the right frontal cortex – coupled with stronger rsFC to the primary somatosensory cortex, and rsFC between the amygdala and posterior insula. Overall, healthy subjects showed higher volume and stronger rsFC of brain regions involved with descending modulation, while the lateral and medial pain systems were related to greater pain inhibition and facilitation during CPM, respectively. These findings reveal structural alignments and functional interactions between supraspinal areas involved in CPM efficiency. Ultimately understanding these underlying variations and how they may become affected in chronic pain conditions, will advance a more targeted subgrouping in pain patients for future cross-sectional studies investigating endogenous pain modulation.