Pain. 2013 Aug;154(8):1343-51 doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.04.016. 2013 May 31.

Sustained deep-tissue pain alters functional brain connectivity

Kim J, Loggia ML, Edwards RR, Wasan AD, Gollub RL, Napadow V.

Abstract

Recent functional brain connectivity studies have contributed to our understanding of the neurocircuitry supporting pain perception. However, evoked-pain connectivity studies have employed cutaneous and/or brief stimuli, which induce sensations that differ appreciably from the clinical pain experience. Sustained myofascial pain evoked by pressure cuff affords an excellent opportunity to evaluate functional connectivity change to more clinically relevant sustained deep-tissue pain. Connectivity in specific networks known to be modulated by evoked pain (sensorimotor, salience, dorsal attention, frontoparietal control, and default mode networks: SMN, SLN, DAN, FCN, and DMN) was evaluated with functional-connectivity magnetic resonance imaging, both at rest and during a sustained (6-minute) pain state in healthy adults. We found that pain was stable, with no significant changes of subjects' pain ratings over the stimulation period. Sustained pain reduced connectivity between the SMN and the contralateral leg primary sensorimotor (S1/M1) representation. Such SMN-S1/M1 connectivity decreases were also accompanied by and correlated with increased SLN-S1/M1 connectivity, suggesting recruitment of activated S1/M1 from SMN to SLN. Sustained pain also increased DAN connectivity to pain processing regions such as mid-cingulate cortex, posterior insula, and putamen. Moreover, greater connectivity during pain between contralateral S1/M1 and posterior insula, thalamus, putamen, and amygdala was associated with lower cuff pressures needed to reach the targeted pain sensation. These results demonstrate that sustained pain disrupts resting S1/M1 connectivity by shifting it to a network known to process stimulus salience. Furthermore, increased connectivity between S1/M1 and both sensory and affective processing areas may be an important contribution to interindividual differences in pain sensitivity.

PMID: 23718988