Electrophysiological studies on human pain perception

Clin Neurophysiol. 2005 Apr;116(4):743-63. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2004.11.016. Epub 2005 Jan 11.


Objective: We reviewed the recent progress in electrophysiological studies using electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on human pain perception.

Methods: For recording activities following A delta fiber stimulation relating to first pain, several kinds of lasers such as CO2, Tm:YAG and argon lasers are now widely used. The activity is frequently termed laser evoked potential (LEP), and we reviewed previous basic and clinical reports on LEP. We also introduced our new method, epidermal stimulation (ES), which is useful for recording brain activities by the signals ascending through A delta fibers. For recording activities following C fiber stimulation relating to second pain, several methods have been used but weak CO2 laser stimuli applied to tiny areas of the skin were recently used.

Results: EEG and MEG findings following C fiber stimulation were similar to those following A delta fiber stimulation except for a longer latency. Finally, we reviewed the effect of rTMS on acute pain perception. rTMS alleviated acute pain induced by intracutaneous injection of capsaicin, which activated C fibers, but it enhanced acute pain induced by laser stimulation, which activated A delta fibers.

Conclusions: One promising approach in the near future is to analyze the change of a frequency band. This method will probably be used for evaluation of continuous tonic pain such as cancer pain, which evoked response studies cannot evaluate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Perception / physiology*