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Schulz, Enrico; Stankewitz, Anne; Winkler, Anderson M.; Irving, Stephanie; Witkovsky, Viktor and Tracey, Irene (2020): Ultra-high-field imaging reveals increased whole brain connectivity underpins cognitive strategies that attenuate pain. In: eLife, Vol. 9, e55028 [PDF, 4MB]

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We investigated how the attenuation of pain with cognitive interventions affects brain connectivity using neuroimaging and a whole brain novel analysis approach. While receiving tonic cold pain, 20 healthy participants performed three different pain attenuation strategies during simultaneous collection of functional imaging data at seven tesla. Participants were asked to rate their pain after each trial. We related the trial-by-trial variability of the attenuation performance to the trial-by-trial functional connectivity strength change of brain data. Across all conditions, we found that a higher performance of pain attenuation was predominantly associated with higher functional connectivity. Of note, we observed an association between low pain and high connectivity for regions that belong to brain regions long associated with pain processing, the insular and cingulate cortices. For one of the cognitive strategies (safe place), the performance of pain attenuation was explained by diffusion tensor imaging metrics of increased white matter integrity.

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