Different modalities of painful somatosensory stimulations affect anticipatory cortical processes: A high-resolution EEG study

Claudio Babiloni, Alfredo Brancucci, Paolo Capotosto, Claudio Del Percio, Gian Luca Romani, Lars Arendt-Nielsen, Paolo Maria Rossini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pain sensation is characterized by multiple features that allow to differentiate pricking, burning, aching, stinging, and electrical shock. These features are sub-served by neural pathways that might give flexibility and selectivity to the cerebral anticipatory processes. In this line, the present high-resolution electroencephalography (EEG) study tested the hypothesis that the anticipatory cortical processes are stronger for painful thermal (biologically relevant) than electrical ("artificial") stimuli with similar intensity. EEG data (128 electrodes) were recorded in normal subjects during the expectancy of painful electrical or laser stimuli (visual omitted stimulus paradigm; interval between two painful stimuli: 16 s), delivered over the median nerve region of the right arm (nonpainful stimuli as controls). After each stimulus, the subject reported the perceived stimulus intensity. Surface Laplacian estimation of the EEG data spatially enhanced the anticipatory stimulus-preceding negativity (SPN), which reflects motivational relevance of the stimulus. Subjects perceived no difference in the intensity of the electrical versus laser stimuli in both painful and nonpainful conditions. However, the anticipatory SPN appeared over large scalp regions before painful laser but not electrical stimulation. The same was true for the nonpainful stimulations. The present results suggest that the motivational anticipatory cortical processes are induced by nonpainful and painful biologically/ecologically relevant laser stimuli rather than by "artificial" electrical stimuli with similar intensity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-484
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 15 2007


  • CO-laser stimulation
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Pain
  • Stimulus-preceding negativity (SPN)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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