Transcranial direct current stimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex alters emotional modulation of spinal nociception.
Emotion has a strong modulatory effect on pain perception and spinal nociception. Pleasure inhibits pain and nociception, whereas displeasure facilitates pain and nociception. Dysregulation of this system has been implicated in development and maintenance of chronic pain. The current study sought to examine whether emotional modulation of pain could be altered through the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to enhance (via anodal stimulation) or depress (via cathodal stimulation) cortical excitability in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Thirty-two participants (15 female, 17 male) received anodal, cathodal, and sham tDCS on three separate occasions, followed immediately by testing to examine the impact of pleasant and unpleasant images on pain and nociceptive flexion reflex (NFR) responses to electrocutaneous stimulation. Results indicated that tDCS modulated the effect of image content on NFR, F(2, 2175.06) = 3.20, p = 0.04, with the expected linear slope following anodal stimulation (i.e., pleasant < neutral < unpleasant) but not cathodal stimulation. These findings provide novel evidence that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is critical to emotional modulation of spinal nociception. Moreover, the results suggest a physiological basis for a previously identified phenotype associated with risk for chronic pain and thus a potentially new target for chronic pain prevention efforts. PERSPECTIVE: This study demonstrated that reduction of dorsolateral prefrontal cortical excitability by transcranial direct current stimulation attenuates the impact of emotional image viewing on nociceptive reflex activity during painful electrocutaneous stimulation. This result confirms there is cortical involvement in emotional modulation of spinal nociception and opens avenues for future clinical research.
PMID: 33253818 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]
J Pain. 2020 Nov 27;:
Authors: Slepian PM, France CR, Rhudy JL, Clark BC