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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Differential coding of pain intensity in the human primary and secondary somatosensory cortex.

The primary (SI) and secondary ( SII) somatosensory cortices have been shown to participate in human pain processing. However, in humans it is unclear how SI and SII contribute to the encoding of nociceptive stimulus intensity. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) we recorded responses in SI and SII in eight healthy humans to four different intensities of selectively nociceptive laser stimuli delivered to the dorsum of the right hand. Subjects' pain ratings correlated highly with the applied stimulus intensity. Activation of contralateral SI and bilateral SII showed a significant positive correlation with stimulus intensity. However, the type of dependence on stimulus intensity was different for SI and SII. The relation between SI activity and stimulus intensity resembled an exponential function and matched closely the subjects' pain ratings. In contrast, SII activity showed an S-shaped function with a sharp increase in amplitude only at a stimulus intensity well above pain threshold. The activation pattern of SI suggests participation of SI in the discriminative perception of pain intensity. In contrast, the all-or-none-like activation pattern of SII points against a significant contribution of SII to the sensory-discriminative aspects of pain perception. Instead, SII may subserve recognition of the noxious nature and attention toward painful stimuli.[1]


  1. Differential coding of pain intensity in the human primary and secondary somatosensory cortex. Timmermann, L., Ploner, M., Haucke, K., Schmitz, F., Baltissen, R., Schnitzler, A. J. Neurophysiol. (2001) [Pubmed]
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