Modulation of pain perception by transcranial magnetic stimulation of left prefrontal cortex

J Headache Pain. 2011 Apr;12(2):185-91. doi: 10.1007/s10194-011-0322-8. Epub 2011 Feb 25.


Evidence by functional imaging studies suggests the role of left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in the inhibitory control of nociceptive transmission system. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is able to modulate pain response to capsaicin. In the present study, we evaluated the effect of DLPFC activation (through rTMS) on nociceptive control in a model of capsaicin-induced pain. The study was performed on healthy subjects that underwent capsaicin application on right or left hand. Subjects judged the pain induced by capsaicin through a 0-100 VAS scale before and after 5 Hz rTMS over left and right DLPFC at 10 or 20 min after capsaicin application in two separate groups (8 subjects each). Left DLPFC-rTMS delivered either at 10 and 20 min after capsaicin application significantly decreased spontaneous pain in both hands. Right DLPFC rTMS showed no significant effect on pain measures. According to these results, stimulation of left DLPFC seems able to exert a bilateral control on pain system, supporting the critical antinociceptive role of such area. This could open new perspectives to non-invasive brain stimulation protocols of alternative target area for pain treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Pain / chemically induced
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / radiation effects
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*


  • Capsaicin