Electroencephalography During Nociceptive Stimulation in Chronic Pain Patients: A Systematic Review

Dorine Lenoir, Ward Willaert, Iris Coppieters, Anneleen Malfliet, Kelly Ickmans, Jo Nijs, Kristl Vonck, Mira Meeus, Barbara Cagnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
83 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: With its high temporal resolution, electroencephalography (EEG), a technique that records electrical activity of cortical neuronal cells, is a potentially suitable technique to investigate human somatosensory processing. By using EEG, the processing of (nociceptive) stimuli can be investigated, along with the functionality of the nociceptive pathway. Therefore, it can be applied in chronic pain patients to objectify whether changes have occurred in nociceptive processing. Typically, so-called event-related potential (ERP) recordings are used, where EEG signals are recorded in response to specific stimuli and characterized by latency and amplitude.

OBJECTIVE: To summarize whether differences in somatosensory processing occur between chronic pain patients and healthy controls, measured with ERPs, and determine whether this response is related to the subjective pain intensity.

DESIGN: Systematic review.

SETTING AND METHODS: PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase were consulted, and 18 case-control studies were finally included.

SUBJECTS: The chronic pain patients suffered from tension-type headache, back pain, migraine, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, prostatitis, or complex regional pain syndrome.

RESULTS: Chronic neuropathic pain patients showed increased latencies of the N2 and P2 components, along with a decreased amplitude of the N2-P2 complex, which was also obtained in FM patients with small fiber dysfunction. The latter also showed a decreased amplitude of the N2-P3 and N1-P1 complex. For the other chronic pain patients, the latencies and the amplitudes of the ERP components did not seem to differ from healthy controls. One paper indicated that the N2-P3 peak-to-peak amplitude correlates with the subjective experience of the stimulus.

CONCLUSIONS: Differences in ERPs with healthy controls can mostly be found in chronic pain populations that suffer from neuropathic pain or where fiber dysfunction is present. In chronic pain populations with other etiological mechanisms, limited differences were found or agreed upon across studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3413-3427
Number of pages15
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number12
Early online date3 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


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