Region-specific encoding of sensory and affective components of pain in the human brain: a positron emission tomography correlation analysis

Ann Neurol. 1999 Jan;45(1):40-7. doi: 10.1002/1531-8249(199901)45:1<40::aid-art8>;2-l.


Brain imaging with positron emission tomography has identified some of the principal cerebral structures of a central network activated by pain. To discover whether the different cortical and subcortical areas process different components of the multidimensional nature of pain, we performed a regression analysis between noxious heat-related regional blood flow increases and experimental pain parameters reflecting detection of pain, encoding of pain intensity, as well as pain unpleasantness. The results of our activation study indicate that different functions in pain processing can be attributed to different brain regions; ie, the gating function reflected by the pain threshold appeared to be related to anterior cingulate cortex, the frontal inferior cortex, and the thalamus, the coding of pain intensity to the periventricular gray as well as to the posterior cingulate cortex, and the encoding of pain unpleasantness to the posterior sector of the anterior cingulate cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Radioisotopes
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Oxygen Radioisotopes