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Beyond the “Pain Matrix,” inter-run synchronization during mechanical nociceptive stimulation

Abstract

Pain is a complex experience that is thought to emerge from the activity of multiple brain areas, some of which are inconsistently detected using traditional fMRI analysis. One hypothesis is that the traditional analysis of pain-related cerebral responses, by relying on the correlation of a predictor and the canonical hemodynamic response function (HRF)- the general linear model (GLM)- may under-detect the activity of those areas involved in stimulus processing that do not present a canonical HRF. In this study, we employed an innovative data-driven processing approach- an inter-run synchronization (IRS) analysis- that has the advantage of not establishing any pre-determined predictor definition. With this method we were able to evidence the involvement of several brain regions that are not usually found when using predictor-based analysis. These areas are synchronized during the administration of mechanical punctate stimuli and are characterized by a BOLD response different from the canonical HRF. This finding opens to new approaches in the study of pain imaging

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