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J Headache Pain. 2014 Jun 13;15:39. doi: 10.1186/1129-2377-15-39.

Influences of smoking and caffeine consumption on trigeminal pain processing.

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Department of Neurology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Hufeland street 55, Essen 45147, Germany.



Many human and animal studies have shown the influence of nicotine and caffeine on pain perception and processing. This study aims to investigate whether smoking or caffeine consumption influences trigeminal pain processing.


Sixty healthy subjects were investigated using simultaneous recordings of the nociceptive blink reflex (nBR) and pain related evoked potentials (PREP) following nociceptive electrical stimulation on both sides of the forehead (V1). Thirty subjects were investigated before and after smoking a cigarette, as well as before and after taking a tablet of 400 mg caffeine.


After smoking PREP showed decreased N2 and P2 latencies indicating central facilitation at supraspinal (thalamic or cortical) level. PREP amplitudes were not changed. NBR showed a decreased area under the curve (AUC) indicating central inhibition at brainstem level. After caffeine intake no significant changes were observed comparing nBR and PREP results before consumption.


Smoking influences trigeminal pain processing on supraspinal and brainstem level. In the investigated setting, caffeine consumption does not significantly alter trigeminal pain processing. This observation might help in the further understanding of the pathophysiology of pain disorders that are associated with excessive smoking habits such as cluster headache. Previous smoking has to be taken into account when performing electrophysiological studies to avoid bias of study results.

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