Chronic pain is characterised by an ongoing and fluctuating intensity over time. Here, we investigated how the trajectory of the patients' endogenous pain is encoded in the brain. In repeated functional MRI (fMRI) sessions, 20 patients with chronic back pain and 20 patients with chronic migraine were asked to continuously rate the intensity of their endogenous pain. Linear mixed effects models were used to disentangle cortical processes related to pain intensity and to pain intensity changes. At group level, we found that the intensity of pain in patients with chronic back pain is encoded in the anterior insular cortex, the frontal operculum, and the pons; the change of pain in chronic back pain and chronic migraine patients is mainly encoded in the anterior insular cortex. At the individual level, we identified a more complex picture where each patient exhibited their own signature of endogenous pain encoding. The diversity of the individual cortical signatures of chronic pain encoding results bridge between clinical observations and neuroimaging; they add to the understanding of chronic pain as a complex and multifaceted disease.
Mayr, A., Jahn, P., Stankewitz, A., Deak, B., Winkler, A., Witkovsky, V., Eren, O., Straube, A., & Schulz, E. (2022). Patients with chronic pain exhibit individually unique cortical signatures of pain encoding. Human brain mapping, 43(5), 1676–1693. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.25750
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Human Brain Mapping
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