Two lines of evidence about the association between the experience of pain and brain state (measured via electroencephalogram or EEG) have recently come to light. First, research from a number of sources suggests a link between brain EEG activity and the experience of pain. Specifically, this research suggests that the subjective experience of pain is associated with relatively lower amplitudes of slower wave (delta, theta, and alpha) activity and relatively higher amplitudes of faster wave (beta) activity. Second, there has been a recent increase in interest in interventions that impact the cortical neuromodulation of pain, including behavioral treatments (such as self-hypnosis training and neurofeedback) and both invasive and noninvasive brain stimulation. Although a direct causal link between experience of pain and brain activity as measured by EEG has not been established, the targeting of pain treatment at a cortical level by trying to affect EEG rhythms directly is an intriguing possibility.
Perspective: Preliminary evidence suggests the possibility, which has not yet adequately tested or proven, that the experience of chronic pain is linked to cortical activity as assessed via an electroencephalogram. Support for this hypothesis would have important implications for understanding the mechanisms that underlie a number of pain treatments, and for developing new innovative treatments for chronic pain management.