Activation of Anterior Insular Cortex and Anterior Medial Cingulate Cortex Associated with Direct Pain Perception and Empathy for Pain

2017-06-07T00:11:56Z (GMT) by Jakob Berefelt
<div> <div> <div> <p>Introduction: The anterior Insular Cortex (aIC) and the anterior Medial Cingulate Cortex (aMCC) are brain regions associated with pain perception and empathy for pain. To study how activation in these regions might be affected by sleep deprivation, an experimental paradigm able to measure this activation during pain perception and empathy for pain is required. This pilot study aims to design that paradigm in preparation of a future study investigating sleep deprivation. Aims: To design a paradigm able to activate aIC and aMCC; furthermore, to verify the paradigm using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and calculate power. Material and Methods: Painful stimuli (electric shocks) of high or low intensity were applied to participants (n = 8) and to a confederate visible by the participant. Participants rated perceived pain and discomfort respectively. Brain activity was measured using fMRI. Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) and Region of Interest (ROI) analysis were used for statistical calculations. Results: No significant change in activation was found. However, ROI analyses showed positive stimuli contrast estimates, which indicates a trend towards increased activation in aIC and aMCC, associated with pain perception but not with empathy for pain. Further analysis revealed elevated discomfort ratings of the control stimuli which could explain the null-result regarding empathy for pain. Conclusions: The trends towards increased activation in aIC and aMCC associated with pain perception suggest that the paradigm works and that significant findings are plausible with an increased number of participants. Critical points of improvements were identified regarding the empathy-part of the paradigm. </p> </div> </div> </div>