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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Apr 2024 - 3 May 2024

2024 Apr 23

Auton Neurosci



Anticipating noxious stimulation rather than afferent nociceptive input may evoke pupil asymmetry.


Drummond PD


Unilateral nociceptive stimulation is associated with subtle signs of pupil asymmetry that may reflect lateralized activity in the locus coeruleus. To explore drivers of this pupil asymmetry, electrical stimuli, delivered alone or 200 ms before or after an acoustic startle stimulus, were administered to one ankle under four experimental conditions: with or without a 1.6 s anticipatory period, or while the forearm ipsilateral or contralateral to the electrical stimulus was heated tonically to induce moderate pain (15 healthy participants in each condition). Pupil diameter was measured at the start of each trial, at stimulus delivery, and each second for 5 s after stimulus delivery. At the start of the first trial, the pupil ipsilateral to the side on which electric shocks were later delivered was larger than the contralateral pupil. Both pupils dilated robustly during the anticipatory period and dilated further during single- and dual-stimulus trials. However, pupil asymmetry persisted throughout the experiment. Tonically-applied forearm heat-pain modulated the pupillary response to phasic electrical stimuli, with a slight trend for dilatation to be greater contralateral to the forearm being heated. Together, these findings suggest that focusing anxiously on the expected site of noxious stimulation was associated with dilatation of the ipsilateral pupil whereas phasic nociceptive stimuli and psychological arousal triggered bilateral pupillary dilatation. It was concluded that preparatory cognitive activity rather than phasic afferent nociceptive input is associated with pupillary signs of lateralized activity in the locus coeruleus.