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Cereb Cortex. 2006 Mar;16(3):355-65. Epub 2005 May 18.

Temporal analysis of cortical mechanisms for pain relief by tactile stimuli in humans.

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Department of Integrative Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Myodaiji, Okazaki 444-8585, Japan.


The mechanisms by which vibrotactile stimuli relieve pain are not well understood, especially in humans. We recorded cortical magnetic responses to paired noxious (intra-epidermal electrical stimulation, IES) and innocuous (transcutaneous electrical stimulation, TS) stimuli applied to the back at a conditioning-test interval (CTI) of -500 to 500 ms. Results showed that IES-induced responses were remarkably attenuated when TS was applied 20-60 ms later and 0-500 ms earlier than IES (CTI = -60 to 500 ms). Since the signals evoked by IES reached the spinal cord (CTI = -60 to -20 ms conditions) and the cortex (-60 and -40 ms condition) earlier than those evoked by TS, the present results indicate that cortical responses to noxious stimuli can be inhibited by innocuous tactile stimuli at the cortical level, with minimal contribution at the spinal level.

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