Cortico-spinal imaging to study pain

Neuroimage. 2021 Jan 1:224:117439. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117439. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain has helped to reveal mechanisms of pain perception in health and disease. Recently, imaging approaches have been developed that allow recording neural activity simultaneously in the brain and in the spinal cord. These approaches offer the possibility to examine pain perception in the entire central pain system and in addition, to investigate cortico-spinal interactions during pain processing. Although cortico-spinal imaging is a promising technique, it bears challenges concerning data acquisition and data analysis strategies. In this review, we discuss studies that applied simultaneous imaging of the brain and spinal cord to explore central pain processing. Furthermore, we describe different MR-related acquisition techniques, summarize advantages and disadvantages of approaches that have been implemented so far and present software that has been specifically developed for the analysis of spinal fMRI data to address challenges of spinal data analysis.

Keywords: Combined imaging; Cortico-spinal imaging; Pain; Pain processing; Spinal cord; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Afferent Pathways / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Pain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Perception / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology
  • Spinothalamic Tracts / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinothalamic Tracts / physiopathology

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