Mapping multidimensional pain experience onto electrophysiological responses to noxious laser heat stimuli




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The origin of the conscious experience of pain in the brain is a continuing enigma in neuroscience. To shed light on the brain representation of a multifaceted pain experience in humans, we combined multivariate analysis of subjective aspects of pain sensations with detailed, single-trial analysis of electrophysiological brain responses. Participants were asked to fully focus on any painful or non-painful sensations occurring in their left hand during an interval surrounding the onset of noxious laser heat stimuli, and to rate their sensations using a set of visual analogue scales. Statistical parametric mapping was used to compute a multivariate regression analysis of subjective responses and single-trial laser evoked potentials (LEPs) at subject and group levels. Standardized Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography method was used to reconstruct sources of LEPs. Factor analysis of subjective responses yielded five factors. Factor 1, representing pain, mapped firstly as a negative potential at the vertex and a positive potential at the fronto-temporal region during the 208–260 ms interval, and secondly as a strong negative potential in the right lateral frontal and prefrontal scalp regions during the 1292–1340 ms interval. Three other factors, labelled “anticipated pain”, “stimulus onset time”, and “body sensations”, represented non-specific aspects of the pain experience, and explained portions of LEPs in the latency range from 200 ms to 700 ms. The subjective space of pain during noxious laser stimulation is represented by one large factor featuring pain intensity, and by other factors accounting for non-specific parts of the sensory experience. Pain is encoded in two separate latency components with different scalp and brain representations.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Pain, Laser evoked potentials, Event-related potentials, sLORETA


Stancak, A., Cook, S., Wright, H., Fallon, N. (2015) Mapping multidimensional pain experience onto electrophysiological responses to noxious laser heat stimuli. NeuroImage, 125, pp. 244-255.


Research Institute

Institute for Psychological Science