The study aim was to evaluate the effect of different attentional tasks on the amplitudes and latencies of painful and non-painful contact heat evoked potentials (CHEPs). CHEPs were recorded in 12 healthy subjects during two experimental conditions, in which attention was oriented towards the intensity and the distress caused by the stimuli and were compared with CHEPs recorded during a neutral condition. The painful heat stimulation produced a negative potential at Cz vertex with a latency around 540 ms (Cz/N540), a positive peak at Cz electrode around 730 ms (Cz/P730) and, lastly, a positive peak around 1000 ms (Pz/P1000) in the Pz traces. The Cz/P730 wave was significantly higher in amplitude only during the painful stimulation and is probably related to coding the nociceptive activity. Varying the attentional target towards different properties of the stimulus did not cause any significant change in CHEP responses amplitude and latencies compared with the neutral condition. Our results suggest that CHEPs represent a reliable functional measure of the nociceptive pathways and that they are generated by the activation of different cerebral areas involved in pain processing. The high activation level of each of these area or their spatial neighbouring might explain the strong similarity of CHEP components recorded during different attentional manipulations.
- Evoked potential
- Heat stimulation