Cortical modulation of pain

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2005 Jan;62(1):44-52. doi: 10.1007/s00018-004-4283-9.


The sensation commonly referred to as 'pain' has two components. The first is the sensory-discriminative component and provides information on location, modality and intensity of stimuli. The second is the affective-motivational component and refers to the emotional responses (fear, distress etc.) and the urge to respond evoked by the somatic sensation, and at the cortical level these two components appear to be located in different regions. The cortex probably influences pain by two different mechanisms. There is good evidence that the cortex can reduce pain by interrupting the transmission of noxious information from the spinal cord level by activating descending pain modulatory systems located in the brainstem. Less well established is the idea that modulation can also occur at the cortical level to change the affective-motivational aspects of nociception so that pain is perceived but looses its emotional and aversive component.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Radiography