Neural substrates underlying evaluation of pain in actions depicted in words

Behav Brain Res. 2007 Aug 6;181(2):218-23. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2007.04.008. Epub 2007 Apr 20.


Previous research has shown that evaluation of pain shown in pictures is mediated by a cortical circuit consisting of the primary and secondary somatosensory cortex (SI and SII), the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and the insula. SI and SII subserve the sensory-discriminative component of pain processing whereas ACC and the insula mediate the affective-motivational aspect of pain processing. The current work investigated the neural correlates of evaluation of pain depicted in words. Subjects were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while reading words or phrases depicting painful or neutral actions. Subjects were asked to rate pain intensity of the painful actions depicted in words or counting the number of Chinese characters in the words. Relative to the counting task, rating pain intensity induced activations in SII, the insula, the right middle frontal gyrus, the left superior temporal sulcus and the left middle occipital gyrus. Our results suggest that both the sensory-discriminative and affective-motivational components of the pain matrix are engaged in the processing of pain depicted in words.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / psychology
  • Reference Values
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*
  • Vocabulary*