, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 43-58

Dynamic Brain Topography of Somatosensory Evoked Potentials and Equivalent Dipoles in Response to Graded Painful Skin and Muscle Stimulation

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The differential effects of painful stimulation of skin vs. muscle on the cerebral electrophysiology have been poorly described. This study examined the somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) and the associated dipole models of non-painful and graded painful electrical stimulation applied to the skin and muscle in 20 healthy subjects. With the psychophysical stimulus-response functions determined, the skin stimulation showed a steeper slope than muscle stimulation. For both types of stimulation, the SEPs indicated a similar temporo-spatial activation sequence: F4/N90-P4/P95, Fc2/N135, Cz/P250, Cz/P300, and Cz/N460. The SEP amplitudes increased significantly with the stimulus intensities in these components. The peak SEP latencies of skin stimulation were in general shorter than that of muscle stimulation. The SEP amplitudes to skin stimulation were significantly larger than those caused by muscle stimulation at every stimulus intensity level, except the early mid-latency component. In this case, muscle stimulation caused higher amplitudes over the contralateral parietal-frontal sites. For both types of stimulation, the topographic maps were quite similar. Equivalent dipole modeling revealed identical site parameters (<1.0 cm) between skin and muscle stimulation. However, the electrical skin stimulation did not correlate with the pain intensity. Pain intensity, in contrast, was uniquely associated with the Cz/P250 amplitudes for the muscle stimulation. It is concluded that non-nociceptive and nociceptive electrical stimuli applied to skin and muscle are processed in the common cerebral areas, but exhibit differential SEP effects.