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Detection of central circuits implicated in the formation of novel pain memories

Authors Upadhyay J, Granitzka J, Bauermann T, Baumgärtner U, Breimhorst M, Treede R, Birklein F

Received 26 May 2016

Accepted for publication 11 July 2016

Published 15 September 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 671—681

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S113436

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael Schatman


Jaymin Upadhyay,1 Julia Granitzka,1 Thomas Bauermann,2 Ulf Baumgärtner,3 Markus Breimhorst,1 Rolf-Detlef Treede,3 Frank Birklein1

1Department of Neurology, 2Department of Neuroradiology, University Medical Centre, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, 3Department of Neurophysiology, Center for Biomedicine and Medical Technology Mannheim (CBTM), Heidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany

Abstract: Being able to remember physically and emotionally painful events in one’s own past may shape behavior, and can create an aversion to a variety of situations. Pain imagination is a related process that may include recall of past experiences, in addition to production of sensory and emotional percepts without external stimuli. This study aimed to understand 1) the central nervous system processes that underlie pain imagination, 2) the retrieval of pain memories, and 3) to compare the latter with visual object memory. These goals were achieved by longitudinally investigating brain function with functional magnetic resonance imaging in a unique group of healthy volunteers who had never experienced tooth pain. In these subjects, we compared brain responses elicited during three experimental conditions in the following order: imagination of tooth pain (pain imagination), remembering one’s own house (object memory), and remembrance of tooth pain following an episode of induced acute tooth pain (pain memory). Key observations stemming from group-level conjunction analyses revealed common activation in the posterior parietal cortex for both pain imagination and pain memory, while object and pain memory each had strong activation predominantly within the middle frontal gyrus. When contrasting pain imagination and memory, significant activation differences were observed in subcortical structures (ie, parahippocampus – pain imagination > pain memory; midbrain – pain memory > pain imagination). Importantly, these findings were observed in the presence of consistent and reproducible psychophysical and behavioral measures that informed on the subjects’ ability to imagine novel and familiar thoughts, as well as the subjects’ pain perception.

Keywords: fMRI, pain memory, pain imagination, object memory, tooth pain

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