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Mental imagery-induced attention modulates pain perception and cortical excitability.

Volz MS, Suarez-Contreras V, Portilla AL, Fregni F - BMC Neurosci (2015)

Bottom Line: In the analysis of pain outcomes, there was no significant interaction effect on pain between group versus time.Its effects appear to differ compared with chronic pain, leading to a small decrease in pain threshold.These exploratory findings suggest that neuronal plasticity is influenced by pain and that the mental imagery effects on pain depend on the state of central sensitization.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratory of Neuromodulation, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 125 Nashua Street #727, Boston, 02114, MA, USA. mvolz@neuromodulationlab.org.

ABSTRACT

Background: Mental imagery is a powerful method of altering brain activity and behavioral outcomes, such as performance of cognition and motor skills. Further, attention and distraction can modulate pain-related neuronal networks and the perception of pain. This exploratory study examined the effects of mental imagery-induced attention on pressure pain threshold and cortical plasticity using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This blinded, randomized, and parallel-design trial comprised 30 healthy right-handed male subjects. Exploratory statistical analyses were performed using ANOVA and t-tests for pain and TMS assessments. Pearson's correlation was used to analyze the association between changes in pain threshold and cortical excitability.

Results: In the analysis of pain outcomes, there was no significant interaction effect on pain between group versus time. In an exploratory analysis, we only observed a significant effect of group for the targeted left hand (ANOVA with pain threshold as the dependent variable and time and group as independent variables). Although there was only a within-group effect of mental imagery on pain, further analyses showed a significant positive correlation of changes in pain threshold and cortical excitability (motor-evoked potentials via TMS).

Conclusions: Mental imagery has a minor effect on pain modulation in healthy subjects. Its effects appear to differ compared with chronic pain, leading to a small decrease in pain threshold. Assessments of cortical excitability confirmed that these effects are related to the modulation of pain-related cortical circuits. These exploratory findings suggest that neuronal plasticity is influenced by pain and that the mental imagery effects on pain depend on the state of central sensitization.

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Study design. Study design and duration of experiment.
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Fig5: Study design. Study design and duration of experiment.

Mentions: This study was a blinded, randomized, controlled, parallel-design trial. Thirty healthy right-handed male subjects were enrolled. The participants were randomized into 1 of 2 groups (15 volunteers in both study arms; in total, 30 participants). Both groups underwent the same procedures, including determination of pressure pain threshold and measurements of cortical excitability with transcranial magnetic stimulation before and after the intervention (FigureĀ 5). The intervention was mental imagery of hand movements or a control task (see below).Figure 5


Mental imagery-induced attention modulates pain perception and cortical excitability.

Volz MS, Suarez-Contreras V, Portilla AL, Fregni F - BMC Neurosci (2015)

Study design. Study design and duration of experiment.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4387598&req=5

Fig5: Study design. Study design and duration of experiment.
Mentions: This study was a blinded, randomized, controlled, parallel-design trial. Thirty healthy right-handed male subjects were enrolled. The participants were randomized into 1 of 2 groups (15 volunteers in both study arms; in total, 30 participants). Both groups underwent the same procedures, including determination of pressure pain threshold and measurements of cortical excitability with transcranial magnetic stimulation before and after the intervention (FigureĀ 5). The intervention was mental imagery of hand movements or a control task (see below).Figure 5

Bottom Line: In the analysis of pain outcomes, there was no significant interaction effect on pain between group versus time.Its effects appear to differ compared with chronic pain, leading to a small decrease in pain threshold.These exploratory findings suggest that neuronal plasticity is influenced by pain and that the mental imagery effects on pain depend on the state of central sensitization.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratory of Neuromodulation, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 125 Nashua Street #727, Boston, 02114, MA, USA. mvolz@neuromodulationlab.org.

ABSTRACT

Background: Mental imagery is a powerful method of altering brain activity and behavioral outcomes, such as performance of cognition and motor skills. Further, attention and distraction can modulate pain-related neuronal networks and the perception of pain. This exploratory study examined the effects of mental imagery-induced attention on pressure pain threshold and cortical plasticity using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This blinded, randomized, and parallel-design trial comprised 30 healthy right-handed male subjects. Exploratory statistical analyses were performed using ANOVA and t-tests for pain and TMS assessments. Pearson's correlation was used to analyze the association between changes in pain threshold and cortical excitability.

Results: In the analysis of pain outcomes, there was no significant interaction effect on pain between group versus time. In an exploratory analysis, we only observed a significant effect of group for the targeted left hand (ANOVA with pain threshold as the dependent variable and time and group as independent variables). Although there was only a within-group effect of mental imagery on pain, further analyses showed a significant positive correlation of changes in pain threshold and cortical excitability (motor-evoked potentials via TMS).

Conclusions: Mental imagery has a minor effect on pain modulation in healthy subjects. Its effects appear to differ compared with chronic pain, leading to a small decrease in pain threshold. Assessments of cortical excitability confirmed that these effects are related to the modulation of pain-related cortical circuits. These exploratory findings suggest that neuronal plasticity is influenced by pain and that the mental imagery effects on pain depend on the state of central sensitization.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus