Spatial summation of pain processing in the human brain as assessed by cerebral event related potentials

Andrew C.N. Chen, David M. Niddam, Helen J. Crawford, Robert Oostenveld, Lars Arendt-Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


To understand spatial summation of pain processing in the brain, we investigated the cerebral evoked responses to non-painful and painful contact heat stimulation (70 °C/s fast onset; intensity 2,4,6, corresponding to the individual's non-, slight and moderate pain) comparing one (1s) vs. two spots (2s) in 11 subjects while electroencephalographic signals were recorded. Significant spatial summation effects were shown only for the pain levels. For moderate pain, global field power examination isolated two peak activations for the vertex (Cz) N550 and P750 components. The single dipole modelling identified as likely the supplementary motor area, SMA area-6 source for N550, and posterior cingulate area-23 for P750. These source components showed a significantly faster (41.2 ms) latency and a shift in location from dorsal to ventral SMA of N550 toward cingulate area-31 between the 1s and 2s conditions. The temporal and spatial shift during spatial summation may reflect speeding up of the limbic affective reaction and prefrontal cognitive preparation in impending aversion and is deemed essential for integration of bodily sensations, such as pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-194
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 9 Aug 2002


  • Contact heat evoked potentials
  • Pain perception
  • Source modelling
  • Spatial summation
  • Temporal shift


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