Spectral signatures of viewing a needle approaching one's body when anticipating pain

Authors

  • Marion Höfle,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, St. Hedwig Hospital, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, St Hedwig Hospital, Berlin, Germany
    • Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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  • Ulrich Pomper,

    1. Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
    2. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, St. Hedwig Hospital, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, St Hedwig Hospital, Berlin, Germany
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  • Michael Hauck,

    1. Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
    2. Department of Neurology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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  • Andreas K. Engel,

    1. Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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  • Daniel Senkowski

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, St. Hedwig Hospital, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, St Hedwig Hospital, Berlin, Germany
    • Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
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Correspondences: Marion Höfle, 1Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, as above.

E-mail: m.hoefle@uke.uni-hamburg.de

Daniel Senkowski, 2Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, as above.

E-mail: daniel.senkowski@charite.de

Abstract

When viewing the needle of a syringe approaching your skin, anticipation of a painful prick may lead to increased arousal. How this anticipation is reflected in neural oscillatory activity and how it relates to activity within the autonomic nervous system is thus far unknown. Recently, we found that viewing needle pricks compared with Q-tip touches increases the pupil dilation response (PDR) and perceived unpleasantness of electrical stimuli. Here, we used high-density electroencephalography to investigate whether anticipatory oscillatory activity predicts the unpleasantness of electrical stimuli and PDR while viewing a needle approaching a hand that is perceived as one's own. We presented video clips of needle pricks and Q-tip touches, and delivered spatiotemporally aligned painful and nonpainful intracutaneous electrical stimuli. The perceived unpleasantness of electrical stimuli and the PDR were enhanced when participants viewed needle pricks compared with Q-tip touches. Source reconstruction using linear beamforming revealed reduced alpha-band activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and fusiform gyrus before the onset of electrical stimuli when participants viewed needle pricks compared with Q-tip touches. Moreover, alpha-band activity in the PCC predicted PDR on a single trial level. The anticipatory reduction of alpha-band activity in the PCC may reflect a neural mechanism that serves to protect the body from forthcoming harm by facilitating the preparation of adequate defense responses.

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