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Eur J Pain. 2008 Oct;12(7):866-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2007.12.007. Epub 2008 Jan 28.

Signal valence in the nucleus accumbens to pain onset and offset.

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P.A.I.N. Group, Brain Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont MA, United States.


Pain and relief are at opposite ends of the reward-aversion continuum. Studying them provides an opportunity to evaluate dynamic changes in brain activity in reward-aversion pathways as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Of particular interest is the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain substrate known to be involved in reward-aversion processing, whose activation valence has been observed to be opposite in response to reward or aversive stimuli. Here we have used pain onset (aversive) and pain offset (rewarding) involving a prolonged stimulus applied to the dorsum of the hand in 10 male subjects over 120s to study the NAc fMRI response. The results show a negative signal change with pain onset and a positive signal change with pain offset in the NAc contralateral to the stimulus. The study supports the idea that the NAc fMRI signal may provide a useful marker for the effects of pain and analgesia in healthy volunteers.

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