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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Oct 2022 - 4 Nov 2022

Human Studies

2022 Oct 31


Lesions to both somatic and affective pain pathways lead to decreased salience network connectivity.


Jalon I, Berger A, Shofty B, Goldway N, Artzi M, Gurevitch G, Hochberg U, Tellem R, Hendler T, Gonen T, Strauss I
Brain. 2022 Oct 31.
PMID: 36314058.


Human pain is a salient stimulus composed of two main components: a sensorysomatic component, carrying peripheral nociceptive sensation via the spino-thalamic tract and brainstem nuclei to the thalamus and then to sensory cortical regions, and an affective (suffering) component, where information from central thalamic nuclei is carried to the anterior insula, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and other regions. While the sensory component processes information about stimulus location and intensity, the affective component processes information regarding pain-related expectations, motivation to reduce pain, and pain unpleasantness. Unlike investigations of acute pain that are based on the introduction of real-time stimulus during brain recordings, chronic pain investigations are usually based on longitudinal and case-control studies, which are limited in their ability to infer the functional network topology of chronic pain. In the current study, we utilized the unique opportunity to target the central nervous system's pain pathways in two different hierarchical locations to establish causality between pain relief and specific connectivity changes seen within the salience and sensorimotor networks. We examined how lesions to the affective and somatic pain pathways affect resting-state network topology in cancer patients suffering from severe intractable pain. Two procedures have been employed: percutaneous cervical cordotomy (n = 15), hypothesized to disrupt the transmission of the sensory component of pain along the spino-thalamic tract, or stereotactic cingulotomy (n = 7), which refers to bilateral intra-cranial ablation of an area in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and is known to ameliorate the affective component of pain. Both procedures led to immediate significant alleviation of experienced pain and decreased functional connectivity within the salience network. However, only the sensory procedure (cordotomy) led to decreased connectivity within the sensorimotor network. Thus, our results support the existence of two converging systems relaying experienced pain, showing that pain-related suffering can be either directly influenced by interfering with the affective pathway, or indirectly influenced by interfering with the ascending spino-thalamic tract.