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Pain. 2000 Apr;85(3):359-74.

An fMRI study of the anterior cingulate cortex and surrounding medial wall activations evoked by noxious cutaneous heat and cold stimuli.

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Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto and The Toronto Western Research Institute, Toronto, Canada.


The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and adjacent regions in the medial wall have been implicated in sensory, motor and cognitive processes, including pain. Our previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have demonstrated pain-related activation of the posterior portion of the ACC during transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and variable patterns of cortical activation with innocuous and noxious thermal stimuli in individual subjects. The present study represents the companion paper to our recent study of pain- and thermal-related cortical activations with the aim to use fMRI to delineate the activations in the ACC and surrounding regions of the medial wall during application of innocuous and noxious thermal stimuli as well as during performance of a motor task in individual subjects. Ten normal subjects were imaged on a conventional 1.5 T GE 'echospeed' system. Functional images were obtained from sagittal sections through each hemisphere centered at approximately 3-5 and 7-9 mm from midline. Each subject was imaged during innocuous (cool, warm) and noxious thermal (cold, hot) stimulation of the thenar eminence, and execution of a motor (sequential finger-thumb opposition) task. Task-related activations were mostly confined to contralateral and medial ipsilateral images. Although the present results demonstrate intersubject variability in the task-related activations, some general modality-specific patterns were apparent: (i) innocuous thermal-related activations were located mainly in the anterior ACC; (ii) noxious thermal-related activations were primarily located in the anterior ACC, the ventral portion of the posterior ACC, and the supplementary motor area (SMA); (iii) motor-related activations were primarily located in the SMA and dorsal portion of the posterior ACC. These results indicate that specific spatial patterns of activation exist within the ACC and surrounding regions of the medial wall for innocuous and noxious thermal stimuli, and that noxious thermal- and motor-related activations appear to be segregated within the ACC. Therefore, we propose a segregation of the ACC into an anterior non-specific attention/arousal system and a posterior pain system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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