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Brain Connect. 2014 Aug;4(6):404-16. doi: 10.1089/brain.2014.0247.

Effect of deafferentation from spinal anesthesia on pain sensitivity and resting-state functional brain connectivity in healthy male volunteers.

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1 Department of Anesthesiology, Leiden University Medical Center , Leiden, The Netherlands .


Patients may perceive paradoxical heat sensation during spinal anesthesia. This could be due to deafferentation-related functional changes at cortical, subcortical, or spinal levels. In the current study, the effect of spinal deafferentation on sensory (pain) sensitivity was studied and linked to whole-brain functional connectivity as assessed by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (RS-fMRI) imaging. Deafferentation was induced by sham or spinal anesthesia (15 mg bupivacaine injected at L3-4) in 12 male volunteers. RS-fMRI brain connectivity was determined in relation to eight predefined and seven thalamic resting-state networks (RSNs) and measured before, and 1 and 2 h after spinal/sham injection. To measure the effect of deafferentation on pain sensitivity, responses to heat pain were measured at 15-min intervals on nondeafferented skin and correlated to RS-fMRI connectivity data. Spinal anesthesia altered functional brain connectivity within brain regions involved in the sensory discriminative (i.e., pain intensity related) and affective dimensions of pain perception in relation to somatosensory and thalamic RSNs. A significant enhancement of pain sensitivity on nondeafferented skin was observed after spinal anesthesia compared to sham (area-under-the-curve [mean (SEM)]: 190.4 [33.8] versus 13.7 [7.2]; p<0.001), which significantly correlated to functional connectivity changes observed within the thalamus in relation to the thalamo-prefrontal network, and in the anterior cingulate cortex and insula in relation to the thalamo-parietal network. Enhanced pain sensitivity from spinal deafferentation correlated with functional connectivity changes within brain regions involved in affective and sensory pain processing and areas involved in descending control of pain.


anesthesia; deafferentation; hyperalgesia; pain; resting-state fMRI; spinal anesthesia

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