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Pain Rep. 2020 Jan 17;5(1):e806. doi: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000806. eCollection 2020 Jan-Feb.

Induced oscillatory signaling in the beta frequency of top-down pain modulation.

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Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, LWL University Hospital, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.
Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, McGil University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Centre for Pain Medicine, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, Centre for Integrative Neuroscience & Neurodynamics (CINN), University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom.
Department of Anesthesiology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Central Institute of Mental HealthHeidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany.
Department of Chiropractic Medicine, Integrative Spinal Research Group, University Hospital Balgrist, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.



Induced synchronized brain activity, particularly in the beta-frequency range, has rarely been investigated in human electrophysiological studies of attentional modulation of the perception of nociceptive stimuli.


We measured time-resolved brain responses to nociceptive stimuli in healthy subjects (final data set: n = 17) using magnetoencephalography (MEG). In addition to investigating evoked responses as previous studies, we tested whether synchronized beta activity induced by nociceptive stimuli differs between 2 attentional conditions. Subjects were presented simultaneously with 2 stimulus modalities (pain-producing intraepidermal electrical stimuli and visual stimuli) in 2 different experimental conditions, ie, "attention to pain" and "attention to color." Pain ratings between conditions were compared using a 2-sided paired-sample t test; MEG data were analyzed with Brainstorm.


Pain ratings were significantly higher in the "attention to pain" compared with the "attention to color" condition. Peak amplitudes of the evoked responses were significantly larger in the "attention to pain" condition bilaterally in the insula and secondary somatosensory cortex, and in the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) contralateral to stimulation. Induced responses to painful stimuli were significantly stronger in contralateral SI in the beta-frequency range in the "attention to pain" condition.


This study replicates previous reports w.r.t. the attentional modulation of evoked responses and suggests a functional role of induced oscillatory activity in the beta frequency in top-down modulation of nociceptive stimuli.


Attention; Electrical intraepidermal stimulation; Magnetoencephalography; Pain modulation

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. This research was supported by a price from an internal MEG competition, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DI 1553/3 to M. Diers, a Merit Scholarship Program for Foreign Students (Ministère de l'Education et de l'Enseignement Supérieur, MELS, Quebec), a Quebec Bio-Imaging Network (QBIN) scholarship for foreign students, a The Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation's Edwards PhD Studentships in Pain Research to W. Gandhi, a Discovery Grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (436355-13), a NIH (1R01EB026299-01), and a Platform Support Grant from the Brain Canada Foundation (PSG15-3755) to S. Becker.Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

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