Mapping the spinal and supraspinal pathways of dynamic mechanical allodynia in the human trigeminal system using cardiac-gated fMRI

Neuroimage. 2007 Apr 15;35(3):1201-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.01.024. Epub 2007 Feb 4.


Following injury and inflammation, pain to light stroking (dynamic mechanical allodynia) might develop at the damaged site (primary area) or in adjacent normal tissue (secondary area). Using fMRI we mapped changes in the spinal trigeminal nucleus (spV), and supraspinal brainstem nuclei following heat/capsaicin-induced primary and secondary dynamic mechanical allodynia in the human trigeminal system. The role of these structures in dynamic mechanical allodynia has not been clarified yet in humans. During the control session we applied the same mechanical stimuli to the same untreated trigeminal area. Primary and secondary mechanical allodynia showed equal levels of perceived pain intensity, and compared to control mechanical stimulation exhibited similar responses in the ipsilateral spV and contralateral ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG). Activity in the spV was significantly higher during both conditions versus the control mechanical stimulation, indicating that central sensitization of second-order neurons is similar for primary and secondary mechanical allodynia. The vlPAG showed decreased activity that inversely correlated with pain ratings during primary allodynia, i.e. the more deactivated the vlPAG the higher the pain intensity (p<0.05, Pearson's correlation). Primary and secondary dynamic mechanical allodynia were also characterized by significant differences involving distinct supraspinal structures mainly involved in pain modulation and including the rostroventromedial medulla, pons reticular formation, dorsolateral PAG, all more active during primary versus secondary allodynia, and the medial reticular formation of the caudal medulla that was more active during secondary versus primary allodynia. These results indicate that the pain modulatory system is involved to a different extent during primary versus secondary mechanical allodynia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory*
  • Humans
  • Hyperesthesia / etiology
  • Hyperesthesia / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Neurons, Afferent
  • Pain Threshold
  • Physical Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Touch
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiopathology*