Brain evoked potentials are functional correlates of induced pain in man

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Electrical potentials evoked by 5 intensities of painful dental stimulation were recorded at the scalp. During testing, volunteers indicated subjective painfulness by verbal pain ratings and visual analogue scales. Evoked potentials (EPs) to each intensity, observed between 50 and 400 msec, were characterized by 4 waveform components. The peak-to-peak amplitudes, but not the peak latencies, of all 4 EP components systematically increased with increased stimulation. The amplitudes of the two earlier components correlated with stimulus intensity when the effect of subjective painfulness was controlled, but this was not the case for the later components. In contrast, the amplitudes of the two later components were associated with subjective painfulness but not with stimulus intensity. A strong linear relationship was observed between subjective painfulness and peak-to-peak amplitude for the EP component observed between 175 and 260 msec. The data suggest that the earlier EP components may reflect sensory transmission processes while the later components indicate brain activity when pain is perceived.

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