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Eur J Pain. 2012 Oct;16(9):1293-301. doi: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2012.00138.x. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

Cerebral somatic pain modulation during autogenic training in fMRI.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Essen, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany.



Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies are increasingly employed in different conscious states. Autogenic training (AT) is a common clinically used relaxation method. The purpose of this study was to investigate the cerebral modulation of pain activity patterns due to AT and to correlate the effects to the degree of experience with AT and strength of stimuli.


Thirteen volunteers familiar with AT were studied with fMRI during painful electrical stimulation in a block design alternating between resting state and electrical stimulation, both without AT and while employing the same paradigm when utilizing their AT abilities. The subjective rating of painful stimulation and success in modulation during AT was assessed.


During painful electrical stimulation without AT, fMRI revealed activation of midcingulate, right secondary sensory, right supplementary motor, and insular cortices, the right thalamus and left caudate nucleus. In contrast, utilizing AT only activation of left insular and supplementary motor cortices was revealed. The paired t-test revealed pain-related activation in the midcingulate, posterior cingulate and left anterior insular cortices for the condition without AT, and activation in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex under AT. Activation of the posterior cingulate cortex and thalamus correlated with the amplitude of electrical stimulation.


This study revealed an effect on cerebral pain processing while performing AT. This might represent the cerebral correlate of different painful stimulus processing by subjects who are trained in performing relaxation techniques. However, due to the absence of a control group, further studies are needed to confirm this theory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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