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Abstract: Neural correlates of interindividual differences in the subjective experience of pain

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Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.1430684100  Robert C. Coghill *, John G. McHaffie *, and Ye-Fen Ye  *Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, and Center for the Study of Pharmacological Plasticity in the Presence of Pain, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157; and Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada N6A 4G5

Edited by Marcus E. Raichle, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, and approved May 20, 2003 (received for review February 4, 2003)

Some individuals claim that they are very sensitive to pain, whereas others say that they tolerate pain well. Yet, it is difficult to determine whether such subjective reports reflect true interindividual experiential differences. Using psychophysical ratings to define pain sensitivity and functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain activity, we found that highly sensitive individuals exhibited more frequent and more robust pain-induced activation of the primary somatosensory cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex than did insensitive individuals. By identifying objective neural correlates of subjective differences, these findings validate the utility of introspection and subjective reporting as a means of communicating a first-person experience.

To whom correspondence should be addressed at: Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1010.  E-mail: rcoghill@wfubmc.edu.

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