‘Chronic pain causes permanent alterations in the human primary somatosensory (SI) and motor (M1) cortices,’ says docent Nina Forss. ‘These alterations can be used as objective indicators of pain that shapes the human brain,’ she continues. Nina Forss works at the Helsinki University of Technology Low Temperature Laboratory: the laboratory’s Brain Research Unit was appointed a Centre of Excellence in Research in 1995.
Each body part has its representation area in the somatosensory cortex
The LTL Brain Research Unit launched in 2000 a research project aimed at exploring the mechanisms of pain processing in the human brain. One of the key instruments is a thulium laser that is used for selective and controlled stimulation of the pain fibres in the skin. The stimulus is repeated at intervals of five seconds, causing to the healthy volunteer a short sharp sensation of pain, resembling the prick of a needle. The cortical response is measured by means of multichannel magnetoencephalography (MEG). The objective is to find out which areas of the cerebral cortex are activated to pain and in what order.
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