22 Oct2021Functional neuroimaging approach to the cognitive neuroscience of pain
Functional neuroimaging approach to the cognitive neuroscience of pain
Graduate Institute of Brain and Mind Sciences
National Taiwan University College of Medicine
Pain is an inherently multi-faceted experience that includes sensory-discriminative, emotional, and motivational components. The perception of pain is variable across individuals, which depends on individuals’ cognitive state when they evaluate afferent nociceptive information, as well as their cognitive modulation of pain processing. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we revealed that there is a distinct signature for the encoding of a painful experience in the human brain, and this encoding process involves a strong affective component. Vigilance-related enhancement in the parieto-thalamic attention network allows the prefrontal cortex to estimate the relative intensity differences between noxious stimuli. Moreover, aversive prediction error-related networks interact with pain-processing circuits to underlie stimulus expectancy effects on pain. These cognitive evaluation and modulation mechanisms not only play an adaptive and protective role by providing sensory-discriminative information of painful stimuli for humans to cope with potentially life-threatening situations, but enhance neuroscientific knowledge about top-down cognitive modulation of nociception. They may also serve as the neural basis to decipher the neural mechanisms underpinning the cognitive dysfunctions associated with pain processing in patients with chronic pain in the future.