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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 May 2022 - 27 May 2022

2022 May 25

J Neurophysiol

Intensity-dependent modulation of cortical somatosensory processing during external, low-frequency peripheral nerve stimulation in humans.


Hewitt D, Newton-Fenner A, Henderson J, Fallon NB, Brown C, Stancak A
J Neurophysiol. 2022 May 25.
PMID: 35611988.


External low-frequency peripheral nerve stimulation (LFS) has been proposed as a novel method for neuropathic pain relief. Previous studies have reported that LFS elicits long-term depression-like effects on human pain perception when delivered at noxious intensities, while lower intensities are ineffective. To shed light on cortical regions mediating the effects of LFS, we investigated changes in somatosensory-evoked potentials (SEPs) during four LFS intensities. LFS was applied to the radial nerve (600 pulses, 1 Hz) of twenty-four healthy participants at perception (1×), low (5×), medium (10×) and high intensities (15× detection threshold). SEPs were recorded during LFS, and averaged SEPs in 10 consecutive one-minute epochs of LFS were analysed using source dipole modelling. Changes in resting electroencephalography (EEG) were investigated after each LFS block. Source activity in the midcingulate cortex (MCC) decreased linearly during LFS, with greater attenuation at stronger LFS intensities, and in the ipsilateral operculo-insular cortex during the two lowest LFS stimulus intensities. Increased LFS intensities resulted in greater augmentation of contralateral primary sensorimotor cortex (SI/MI) activity. Stronger LFS intensities were followed by increased alpha (9-11 Hz) band power in SI/MI and decreased theta (3-5 Hz) band power in MCC. Intensity-dependent attenuation of MCC activity with LFS is consistent with a state of long-term depression. Sustained increases in contralateral SI/MI activity suggests that effects of LFS on somatosensory processing may also be dependent on satiation of SI/MI. Further research could clarify if the activation of SI/MI during LFS competes with nociceptive processing in neuropathic pain.