J Neurosci. 2006 Nov 1;26(44):11454-61. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2260-06.2006
Godinho F, Magnin M, Frot M, Perchet C, Garcia-Larrea L.
Emotional modulation of pain: is it the sensation or what we recall?
Emotions modulate pain perception, although the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain unclear. In this study, we show that intensity reports significantly increased when painful stimuli were concomitant to images showing human pain, whereas pictures with identical emotional values but without somatic content failed to modulate pain. Early somatosensory responses (<200 ms) remained unmodified by emotions. Conversely, late responses showed a significant enhancement associated with increased pain ratings, localized to the right prefrontal, right temporo-occipital junction, and right temporal pole. In contrast to selective attention, which enhances pain ratings by increasing sensory gain, emotions triggered by seeing other people's pain did not alter processing in SI-SII (primary and second somatosensory areas), but may have biased the transfer to, and the representation of pain in short-term memory buffers (prefrontal), as well as the affective assignment to this representation (temporal pole). Memory encoding and recall, rather than sensory processing, appear to be modulated by empathy with others' physical suffering.