Anticipatory cortical responses during the expectancy of a predictable painful stimulation. A high-resolution electroencephalography study

Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Sep;18(6):1692-700. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2003.02851.x.


In the present study, high-resolution electroencephalography techniques modelled the spatiotemporal pattern of human anticipatory cortical responses preceding expected galvanic painful stimuli (non-painful stimuli as a control). Do these responses reflect the activation of associative other than somatosensory systems? Anticipatory processes were probed by alpha oscillations (6-12 Hz) for the evaluation of thalamocortical channels and by negative event-related potentials for the evaluation of cortical excitability. Compared with the control condition, a progressive reduction of the alpha power was recognized over the primary somatosensory cortex from 2 s before the painful stimulation. In contrast, the anticipatory event-related potentials were negligible during the expectancy period. The results on the alpha power suggest that the expectancy of the painful stimulation specifically facilitated the somatosensory thalamocortical channel. Remarkably, the associative frontal-parietal areas were not involved, possibly due to the predictable and repetitive features of the painful stimulus. The present results also suggest that negative event-related potentials are modest preceding warned stimuli (even if painful) with a simple information content.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Artifacts
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Attitude
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electrodes
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Numerical Analysis, Computer-Assisted
  • Pain
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Physical Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Time Factors