Refractoriness Cannot Explain Why C-fiber Laser-Evoked Brain Potentials Are Recorded Only if Concomitant Adelta-fiber Activation Is Avoided

Pain. 2004 Nov;112(1-2):16-26. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2004.05.024.


Co-activation of Adelta- and C-fiber nociceptors by brief cutaneous laser heat stimuli may induce a dual sensation composed of first and second pain but evokes only a single, Adelta-fiber related, late laser-evoked potential (LEP). Yet, when concomitant activation of Adelta-nociceptors is avoided, C-nociceptor activation evokes an ultra-late LEP. As cumulating evidence indicates that late and ultra-late LEPs may share common generators, investigators have hypothesized that when Adelta-fibers trigger a late LEP, the later arriving C-fiber afferent volley cannot trigger an ultra-late LEP because underlying generators are in a 'refractory state'. Better understanding of these interactions could have important consequences regarding the functional significance of LEPs. Therefore, this hypothesis was tested by applying two consecutive laser stimuli to the hand dorsum such as to produce a second Adelta-nociceptor afferent volley arriving at generators during their expected 'refractory period'. Results showed that late LEPs evoked by the second stimulus were not altered and consequently that this hypothesis does not hold. In addition, when stimuli ended the sensory detection task, an ample P600 component was recorded. Studies have shown that this component is probably related to the P3b component described in other sensory modalities. This result provides support to the 'context closure' model hypothesizing that this component reflects the closure of information processing occurring when expectations are terminated. Altogether, these results suggest that late and ultra-late LEPs reflect very general processes, which are mainly related to detection and orientation and constitute only a fraction of the central processing of both nociceptive inputs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Lasers*
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / physiology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric