Unravelling the effect of experimental pain on the corticomotor system using transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroencephalography.
Martel, Marylie; Harvey, Marie-Philippe; Houde, Francis; Balg, Frédéric; Goffaux, Philippe; Léonard, Guillaume
Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Sherbrooke. Centre de recherche sur le vieillissement
Université de Sherbrooke. Faculté de médecine et des sciences de la santé
Abstract : The interaction between pain and the motor system is well-known, with past studies showing that pain can alter corticomotor excitability and have deleterious effects on motor learning. The aim of this study was to better understand the cortical mechanisms underlying the interaction between pain and the motor system. Experimental pain was induced on 19 young and healthy participants using capsaicin cream, applied on the middle volar part of the left forearm. The effect of pain on brain activity and on the corticomotor system was assessed with electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), respectively. Compared to baseline, resting state brain activity significantly increased after capsaicin application in the central cuneus (theta frequency), left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (alpha frequency), and left cuneus and right insula (beta frequency). A pain-evoked increase in the right primary motor cortex (M1) activity was also observed (beta frequency), but only among participants who showed a reduction in corticospinal output (as depicted by TMS recruitment curves). These participants further showed greater beta M1-cuneus connectivity than the other participants. These findings indicate that pain-evoked increases in M1 beta power are intimately tied to changes in the corticospinal system, and provide evidence that beta M1-cuneus connectivity is related to the corticomotor alterations induced by pain. The differential pattern of response observed in our participants suggest that the effect of pain on the motor system is variable from on individual to another; an observation that could have important clinical implications for rehabilitation professionals working with pain patients.