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PLoS One. 2015 Nov 24;10(11):e0142857. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142857. eCollection 2015.

New Insight into the Time-Course of Motor and Sensory System Changes in Pain.

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Western Sydney University, Brain Rehabilitation and Neuroplasticity Unit, School of Science and Health, Campbelltown Campus, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith NSW 2751, Australia.
The University of Queensland, NHMRC Centre of Clinical Research Excellence in Spinal Pain, Injury and Health, School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, St Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland 4062, Australia.



Pain-related interactions between primary motor (M1) and primary sensory (S1) cortex are poorly understood. In particular, the time-course over which S1 processing and corticomotor output are altered in association with muscle pain is unclear. We aimed to examine the temporal profile of altered processing in S1 and altered corticomotor output with finer temporal resolution than has been used previously.


In 10 healthy individuals we recorded somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) and motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in separate sessions at multiple time-points before, during and immediately after pain induced by hypertonic saline infusion in a hand muscle, and at 15 and 25 minutes follow-up.


Participants reported an average pain intensity that was less in the session where SEPs were recorded (SEPs: 4.0 ± 1.6; MEPs: 4.9 ± 2.3). In addition, the time taken for pain to return to zero once infusion of hypertonic saline ceased was less for participants in the SEP session (SEPs: 4.7 ± 3.8 mins; MEPs 9.4 ± 7.4 mins). Both SEPs and MEPs began to reduce almost immediately after pain reached 5/10 following hypertonic saline injection and were significantly reduced from baseline by the second (SEPs) and third (MEPs) recording blocks during pain. Both parameters remained suppressed immediately after pain had resolved and at 15 and 25 minutes after the resolution of pain.


These data suggest S1 processing and corticomotor output may be co-modulated in association with muscle pain. Interestingly, this is in contrast to previous observations. This discrepancy may best be explained by an effect of the SEP test stimulus on the corticomotor pathway. This novel finding is critical to consider in experimental design and may be potentially useful to consider as an intervention for the management of pain.

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