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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Apr 2023 - 5 May 2023


Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Neuromodulation

2023 Apr 21



Alterations in cortical excitability during pain: A combined TMS-EEG Study.


Chowdhury NS, Chiang AK, Millard SK, Skippen P, Chang WJ, Seminowicz DA, Schabrun SM


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been used to examine the inhibitory and facilitatory circuits during experimental pain and in chronic pain populations. However, current applications of TMS to pain have been restricted to measurements of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) from peripheral muscles. Here, TMS was combined with electroencephalography (EEG) to determine whether experimental pain could induce alterations in cortical inhibitory/facilitatory activity observed in TMS-evoked potentials (TEPs). In Experiment 1 (n = 29), multiple sustained thermal stimuli were administered over the forearm, with the first, second and third block of stimuli consisting of warm but non-painful (pre-pain block), painful heat (pain block) and warm but non-painful (post-pain block) temperatures respectively. During each stimulus, TMS pulses were delivered while EEG (64 channels) was simultaneously recorded. Verbal pain ratings were collected between TMS pulses. Relative to pre-pain warm stimuli, painful stimuli led to an increase in the amplitude of the frontocentral negative peak ∼45ms post-TMS (N45), with a larger increase associated with higher pain ratings. Experiments 2 and 3 (n = 10 in each) showed that the increase in the N45 in response to pain was not due to changes in sensory potentials associated with TMS, or a result of stronger reafferent muscle feedback during pain. This is the first study to use combined TMS-EEG to examine alterations in cortical excitability in response to pain. These results suggest that the N45 TEP peak, which indexes GABAergic neurotransmission, is implicated in pain perception and is a potential marker of individual differences in pain sensitivity.