Cerebral mechanisms involved in the interaction between pain and emotion
Duquette M, Roy M, Leporé F, Peretz I, Rainville P.
Département de Psychologie,
Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Rev Neurol (Paris). 2007 Feb;163(2):169-79.


INTRODUCTION: Pain is an unpleasant and intrusive sensation, warning of actual or potential tissue damage. Over the last fifteen years, functional cerebral imaging research has demonstrated the involvement of many cerebral structures in the experience of pain. BACKGROUND: Intimately linked to the notion of suffering, the affective dimension of pain relies on neurophysiological systems partly distinct anatomically from those involved more specifically in its sensory dimension. Some pathways convey nociceptive information to the somatosensory cortex and the insula, contributing to the sensory aspects of pain (e.g.: sensory intensity), and secondarily, to its affective dimension. Other pathways project directly to the anterior cingulate cortex, the insula, the amygdala and to the prefrontal cortices, which are structures involved in the affective dimension of pain (unpleasantness of pain and regulation of autonomic and behavioral responses). Interestingly, these latter regions are an integral part of the cerebral emotional networks. PERSPECTIVES AND CONCLUSION: This close anatomical relationship between pain and emotions circuits could explain the powerful emotional impact of pain as well as the reciprocal modulatory effect of emotions on pain observed in clinical and experimental studies. More specifically, this modulatory effect might reflect interactions between emotional and nociceptive systems in the prefrontal and cingulate cortices, ventral striatum, amygdala and hippocampal regions. Taken together, these observations further attest to the emotional nature of pain experience.
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