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Linking pain and the body: neural correlates of visually induced analgesia

Linking pain and the body: neural correlates of visually induced analgesia

Journal of Neuroscience 32(8): 2601-2607

The visual context of seeing the body can reduce the experience of acute pain, producing a multisensory analgesia. Here we investigated the neural correlates of this "visually induced analgesia" using fMRI. We induced acute pain with an infrared laser while human participants looked either at their stimulated right hand or at another object. Behavioral results confirmed the expected analgesic effect of seeing the body, while fMRI results revealed an associated reduction of laser-induced activity in ipsilateral primary somatosensory cortex (SI) and contralateral operculoinsular cortex during the visual context of seeing the body. We further identified two known cortical networks activated by sensory stimulation: (1) a set of brain areas consistently activated by painful stimuli (the so-called "pain matrix"), and (2) an extensive set of posterior brain areas activated by the visual perception of the body ("visual body network"). Connectivity analyses via psychophysiological interactions revealed that the visual context of seeing the body increased effective connectivity (i.e., functional coupling) between posterior parietal nodes of the visual body network and the purported pain matrix. Increased connectivity with these posterior parietal nodes was seen for several pain-related regions, including somatosensory area SII, anterior and posterior insula, and anterior cingulate cortex. These findings suggest that visually induced analgesia does not involve an overall reduction of the cortical response elicited by laser stimulation, but is consequent to the interplay between the brain's pain network and a posterior network for body perception, resulting in modulation of the experience of pain.

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Accession: 054134438

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 22357844

DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.4031-11.2012

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