Extensive reorganization of primary somatosensory cortex in chronic back pain patients

Neurosci Lett. 1997 Mar 7;224(1):5-8. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3940(97)13441-3.


The hypothesis of reorganization of the primary somatosensory cortex in states of chronic pain was assessed in 10 low back pain patients and nine matched healthy controls. Intracutaneous electric stimuli were applied to the left back and index finger at a standard, a non-painful and a painful intensity. Magnetic fields were recorded by a 37-channel BTi biomagnetometer from the hemisphere contralateral to the site of stimulation. The power of the early evoked magnetic field (< 100 ms) elicited by painful stimulation of the painful back in very chronic patients was elevated relative to that elicited by painful back stimulation of healthy controls and showed a linear increase with chronicity (r = 0.74). The maximum activity elicited in primary somatosensory cortex was shifted more medially in the very chronic back pain subjects. These data suggest that chronic pain is accompanied by cortical reorganization and may serve an important function in the persistence of the pain experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back
  • Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Female
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Pain
  • Reference Values
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*