Parietal and cingulate processes in central pain. A combined positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of an unusual case

Pain. 2000 Jan;84(1):77-87. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(99)00190-6.


Parietal, insular and anterior cingulate cortices are involved in the processing of noxious inputs and genesis of pain sensation. Parietal lesions may generate central pain by mechanisms generally assumed to involve the 'medial' pain system (i.e. medial thalamic nuclei and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)). We report here PET and fMRI data in a patient who developed central pain and allodynia in her left side after a bifocal infarct involving both the right parietal cortex (SI and SII) and the right ACC (Brodmann areas 24 and 32), thus questioning the schematic representation of cortical pain processing. No rCBF increase was found in any part of the residual cingulate cortices, neither in the basal state (which included spontaneous pain and extended hypoperfusion around the infarct), nor during left allodynic pain. Thus, as previously observed in patients with lateral medullary infarct, neither spontaneous pain nor allodynia reproduce the cingulate activation observed after noxious pain in normal subjects. Conversely, both PET and fMRI data argue in favour of plastic changes in the 'lateral discriminative' pain system. Particularly, allodynia was associated with increased activity anteriorly to the infarct in the right insula/SII cortex. This response is likely to be responsible for the strange and very unpleasant allodynic sensation elicited on the left side by a non-noxious stimulation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Paresis
  • Paresthesia / physiopathology
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed