Brain activity during sympathetic response in anticipation and experience of pain



Pain is a multidimensional phenomenon with sensory, affective, and autonomic components. Here, we used parametric functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to correlate regional brain activity with autonomic responses to (i) painful stimuli and to (ii) anticipation of pain. The autonomic parameters used for correlation were (i) skin blood flow (SBF) and (ii) skin conductance response (SCR). During (i) experience of pain and (ii) anticipation of pain, activity in the insular cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), prefrontal cortex (PFC), posterior parietal cortex (PPC), secondary somatosensory cortex (S2), thalamus, and midbrain correlated with sympathetic outflow. A conjunction analysis revealed a common central sympathetic network for (i) pain experience and (ii) pain anticipation with similar correlations between brain activity and sympathetic parameters in the anterior insula, prefrontal cortex, thalamus, midbrain, and temporoparietal junction. Therefore, we here describe shared central neural networks involved in the central autonomic processing of the experience and anticipation of pain. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.