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Touch inhibits subcortical and cortical nociceptive responses

Mancini, F; Beaumont, AL; Hu, L; Haggard, P; Iannetti, GDD; (2015) Touch inhibits subcortical and cortical nociceptive responses. Pain , 156 (10) pp. 1936-1944. 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000253. Green open access

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Abstract

The neural mechanisms of the powerful analgesia induced by touching a painful body part are controversial. A long tradition of neurophysiological studies in anaesthetized, spinal animals indicate that touch can gate nociceptive input at spinal level. In contrast, recent studies in awake humans have suggested that supra-spinal mechanisms can be sufficient to drive touch-induced analgesia. To investigate this issue, we evaluated the modulation exerted by touch on established electrophysiological markers of nociceptive function at both subcortical and cortical levels in humans. Aδ and C skin nociceptors were selectively activated by high-power laser pulses. As markers of subcortical and cortical function, we recorded the Laser-Blink Reflex (LBR), which is generated by brainstem circuits prior to the arrival of nociceptive signals at the cortex, and Laser-Evoked Potentials (LEPs), which reflect neural activity of a wide array of cortical areas. If subcortical nociceptive responses are inhibited by concomitant touch, supraspinal mechanisms alone are unlikely to be sufficient to drive touch-induced analgesia. Touch induced a clear analgesic effect, suppressed the LBR, and inhibited both Aδ-fibre and C-fibre LEPs. Thus, we conclude that touch induced-analgesia is likely to be mediated by a subcortical gating of the ascending nociceptive input, which in turn results in a modulation of cortical responses. Hence, supra-spinal mechanisms alone are not sufficient to mediate touch-induced analgesia.

Type: Article
Title: Touch inhibits subcortical and cortical nociceptive responses
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000253
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000253
Language: English
Additional information: ©2015 International Association for the Study of Pain. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Electrophysiology, EEG, Somatosensory-evoked potentials, Laser-evoked potentials, Nociceptive blink reflex, Gate control theory, Analgesia, Pain modulation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Neuro, Physiology and Pharmacology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1469831
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