A comparative magnetoencephalographic study of cortical activations evoked by noxious and innocuous somatosensory stimulations

Neuroscience. 2003;120(1):235-48. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(03)00261-6.


We recorded somatosensory-evoked magnetic fields and potentials produced by painful intra-epidermal stimulation (ES) and non-painful transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TS) applied to the left hand in 12 healthy volunteers to compare cortical responses to noxious and innocuous somatosensory stimulations. Our results revealed that cortical processing following noxious and innocuous stimulations was strikingly similar except that the former was delayed approximately 60 ms relative to the latter, which was well explained by a difference in peripheral conduction velocity mediating noxious (Adelta fiber) and innocuous (Abeta fiber) inputs. The first cortical activity evoked by both ES and TS was in the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) in the hemisphere contralateral to the stimulated side. The following activities were in the bilateral secondary somatosensory cortex (SII), insular cortex, cingulate cortex, anterior medial temporal area and ipsilateral SI. The source locations did not differ between the two stimulus modalities except that the dipole for insular activity following ES was located more anterior to that following TS. Both ES and TS evoked vertex potentials consisting of a negativity followed by a positivity at a latency of 202 and 304 ms, and 134 and 243 ms, respectively. The time course of the vertex potential corresponded to that of the activity of the medial temporal area. Our results suggested that cortical processing was similar between noxious and innocuous stimulation in SI and SII, but different in insular cortex. Our data also implied that activities in the amygdala/hippocampal formation represented common effects of noxious and tactile stimulations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography / methods*
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Time Factors