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Neuroimage. 2014 Jan 1;84:383-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.08.057. Epub 2013 Aug 31.

The primary somatosensory cortex contributes to the latest part of the cortical response elicited by nociceptive somatosensory stimuli in humans.

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Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (Ministry of Education) and School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing, China. Electronic address:


Nociceptive laser pulses elicit temporally-distinct cortical responses (the N1, N2 and P2 waves of laser-evoked potentials, LEPs) mainly reflecting the activity of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) contralateral to the stimulated side, and of the bilateral operculoinsular and cingulate cortices. Here, by performing two different EEG experiments and applying a range of analysis approaches (microstate analysis, scalp topography, single-trial estimation), we describe a distinct component in the last part of the human LEP response (P4 wave). We obtained three main results. First, the LEP is reliably decomposed in four main and distinct functional microstates, corresponding to the N1, N2, P2, and P4 waves, regardless of stimulus territory. Second, the scalp and source configurations of the P4 wave follow a clear somatotopical organization, indicating that this response is likely to be partly generated in contralateral S1. Third, single-trial latencies and amplitudes of the P4 are tightly coupled with those of the N1, and are similarly sensitive to experimental manipulations (e.g., to crossing the hands over the body midline), suggesting that the P4 and N1 may have common neural sources. These results indicate that the P4 wave is a clear and distinct LEP component, which should be considered in LEP studies to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the brain response to nociceptive stimulation.


Event-related potentials (ERPs); Functional microstate analysis; Laser-evoked potentials (LEPs); Nociceptive system; Primary somatosensory cortex (S1)

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