Year, Volume, Issue, Page(s):15, 15, 4, 371-377
This study aimed to identify the most effective neural markers of neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury (SCI). A systematic PubMed review was conducted, compiling studies that were published prior to April, 2014 that examined neural markers associated with neuropathic pain after SCI using electrophysiological and neuroimaging techniques. Six studies were identified: 4 using electroencephalogram (EEG), 1 using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and FDG-PET (positron emission tomography), and 1 using MR spectroscopy. The EEG recordings suggested a reduction in alpha EEG peak frequency activity in the frontal regions of SCI patients with neuropathic pain. The MRI scans showed volume loss, primarily in the gray matter of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Using FDG-PET, hypometabolism in the medial prefrontal cortex was observed in SCI patients with neuropathic pain compared with healthy subjects. In the MR spectroscopy findings, the presence of pain was associated with changes in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. When analyzed together, the results of these studies seem to point out to a common marker of pain in SCI characterized by decreased cortical activity in frontal areas and possibly increased subcortical activity. These results may contribute to planning further mechanistic studies as to better understand the mechanisms by which neuropathic pain is modulated in patients with SCI as well as clinical studies investigating best responders of treatment.