Individual pain sensitivity is associated with resting-state cortical activities in healthy individuals but not in patients with migraine: a magnetoencephalography study

Fu Jung Hsiao*, Wei Ta Chen, Hung Yu Liu, Yen Feng Wang, Shih Pin Chen, Kuan Lin Lai, Li Ling Hope Pan, Shuu Jiun Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Pain sensitivity may determine the risk, severity, prognosis, and efficacy of treatment of clinical pain. Magnetic resonance imaging studies have linked thermal pain sensitivity to changes in brain structure. However, the neural correlates of mechanical pain sensitivity remain to be clarified through investigation of direct neural activities on the resting-state cortical oscillation and synchrony. Methods: We recorded the resting-state magnetoencephalographic (MEG) activities of 27 healthy individuals and 30 patients with episodic migraine (EM) and analyzed the source-based oscillatory powers and functional connectivity at 2 to 59 Hz in pain-related cortical regions, which are the bilateral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), medial orbitofrontal (MOF) cortex, lateral orbitofrontal (LOF) cortex, insula cortex, primary somatosensory cortex (SI), primary motor cortex (MI), and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). The mechanical punctate pain threshold (MPPT) was obtained at the supraorbital area (the first branch of the trigeminal nerve dermatome, V1) and the forearm (the first thoracic nerve dermatome, T1) and further correlated with MEG measures. Results: The MPPT is inversely correlated with the resting-state relative powers of gamma oscillation in healthy individuals (all corrected P < 0.05). Specifically, inverse correlation was noted between the MPPT at V1 and gamma powers in the bilateral insula (r = − 0.592 [left] and − 0.529 [right]), PCC (r = − 0.619 and − 0.541) and MI (r = − 0.497 and − 0.549) and between the MPPT at T1 and powers in the left PCC (r = − 0.561) and bilateral MI (r = − 0.509 and − 0.520). Furthermore, resting-state functional connectivity at the delta to beta bands, especially between frontal (MOF, ACC, LOF, and MI), parietal (PCC), and sensorimotor (bilateral SI and MI) regions, showed a positive correlation with the MPPT at V1 and T1 (all corrected P < 0.05). By contrast, in patients with EM, the MPPT was not associated with resting-state cortical activities. Conclusions: Pain sensitivity in healthy individuals is associated with the resting-state gamma oscillation and functional connectivity in pain-related cortical regions. Further studies must be conducted in a large population to confirm whether resting-state cortical activities can be an objective measurement of pain sensitivity in individuals without clinical pain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Episodic migraine
  • Functional connectivity
  • Gamma
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Oscillation
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Resting state


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