Spatial resolution of the pain system: A proximal-to-distal gradient of sensitivity revealed with psychophysical testing

Irit Weissman-Fogel, Nurit Brayer-Zwi, Ruth Defrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The spatial resolution of the pain system has not been studied in depth, and results are contradictory regarding the gradient of spatial resolution. Microneurographic recordings have revealed smaller receptive fields and higher density of nociceptors in more distal than proximal leg regions, whereas histological studies report higher density of C-fibers in more proximal than distal body regions. Due to this controversy, we conducted various psychophysical tests in order to examine the nociceptive spatial resolution and its gradient. Heat-pain threshold (HPT), perceived pain intensity, spatial summation (SS) of pain, two-point discrimination (2PD) of pain, and pain localization were measured in four body regions: upper back, thigh, lower leg, and foot. The highest HPT was demonstrated in the lower leg as compared with more proximal regions (P < 0.0001). SS was observed in all the regions and was found to be smallest in the foot (P < 0.05). The smallest 2PD and localization distances were found in the foot (P < 0.01) as compared with the lower leg and upper back. It appears that the nociceptive spatial resolution has a proximal-to-distal pattern of performance, namely that the spatial resolution of pain is finer in more distal than proximal body regions, similar to that of the touch system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-190
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Volume216
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Keywords

  • 2-point discrimination
  • Pain localization
  • QST
  • Spatial resolution
  • Spatial summation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)

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