Latency to detection of first pain

Brain Res. 1983 May 5;266(2):203-8. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(83)90650-9.


The latency to detection of heat stimuli applied to the distal forearm and thenar eminence was measured in 3 subjects in order to determine whether short latency responses correlated with perception of first pain. Only one temperature was used in a given run and stimuli ranged from 39 to 51 degrees C. In addition, subjects were interviewed at the end of each run regarding the quality of sensations experienced. In one series of experiments the quality of the first sensation evoked by each stimulus rather than latency was recorded. The median response latency decreased exponentially from 1100 ms to 400 ms for the distal arm and 1100 ms to 700 ms for the hand. The higher temperatures elicited a double pain sensation on the arm, but not on the glabrous hand. Warmth was always the first sensation felt on the hand. It is concluded that short latencies (less than 450 ms) reliably denote the presence of first pain, and that at least some portion of the primary afferents that signal first pain must have conduction velocities greater than 6 m/s.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Forearm / innervation
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Lasers
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Time Factors