Topology of EEG Coherence Changes May Reflect Differential Neural Network Activation in Cold and Pain Perception
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Pain perception in the brain can be analyzed by neuroimaging (PET, fMRI) and electrophysiological parameter mapping (EEG, ERP/MEG, MEF). These studies have generally been focused on the localization of cerebral activation. Whether pain can be conceptualized as localized function or best be understood by distributed function is important to the theory of human pain processing in the brain. Here, we report that cold and pain perception in the brain is characterized by webs of EEG coherence changes which may reflect coupling or de-coupling of different cortical areas during cold and pain processing. EEG was recorded during cold and pain perception (right hand immersion in 15°C cool-water vs. 0.3°C ice-water for 3 min.) with eyes opened. Subjects rated the cold perception at 2.3 (cool to cold, but no pain) and the pain perception at 6.7 (moderate-strong pain) in a 1-10 scale. The obtained EEG spectral parameters were compared with the corresponding parameters of the resting baseline using paired Wilcoxon tests in the sense of statistical filters to depict those differences which differ clearly from changes by chance. The results were presented in probability maps. The EEG results indicated highly differential coherence networks between cold and pain perception. The cold perception was characterized as decreased coherence in the theta band mainly between frontal electrodes and increased interhemispheric coherence in the alpha range mainly between central and frontal positions. During pain perception almost no coherence changes in the theta band were observed, but great coherence increase in the delta band between central, parietal and frontal electrodes. The network of coherence changes in the alpha band showed strong involvement of electrode C3 concerning coherence increases with frontal positions. In the beta-1 band coherence increase within the left hemisphere was much more pronounced during pain than during cold. The differential characteristics of EEG coherence changes based on neural networks and their spatial organization in the neocortex indicate the distributed brain processing between cold and pain perception in man. This study may contribute to our understanding of the large scale neural networks in cognition based on neurophysiological binding hypothesis and network connections of neural ensembles.
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