Inhibition of cortical somatosensory processing during and after low frequency peripheral nerve stimulation in humans

Clin Neurophysiol. 2021 Jul;132(7):1481-1495. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2021.03.024. Epub 2021 Apr 16.


Objective: Transcutaneous low-frequency stimulation (LFS) elicits long-term depression-like effects on human pain perception. However, the neural mechanisms underlying LFS are poorly understood. We investigated cortical activation changes occurring during LFS and if changes were associated with reduced nociceptive processing and increased amplitude of spontaneous cortical oscillations post-treatment.

Methods: LFS was applied to the radial nerve of 25 healthy volunteers over two sessions using active (1 Hz) or sham (0.02 Hz) frequencies. Changes in resting electroencephalography (EEG) and laser-evoked potentials (LEPs) were investigated before and after LFS. Somatosensory-evoked potentials were recorded during LFS and source analysis was carried out.

Results: Ipsilateral midcingulate and operculo-insular cortex source activity declined linearly during LFS. Active LFS was associated with attenuated long-latency LEP amplitude in ipsilateral frontocentral electrodes and increased resting alpha (8-12 Hz) and beta (16-24 Hz) band power in electrodes overlying operculo-insular, sensorimotor and frontal cortical regions. Reduced ipsilateral operculo-insular cortex source activity during LFS correlated with a smaller post-treatment alpha-band power increase.

Conclusions: LFS attenuated somatosensory processing both during and after stimulation.

Significance: Results further our understanding of the attenuation of somatosensory processing both during and after LFS.

Keywords: EEG; Long term depression; Low frequency stimulation; Nociception; Pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser-Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Male
  • Pain Perception / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult