Some clinical studies have shown promising effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the primary motor cortex (M1) on pain relief. Nevertheless, a few studies reported no significant analgesic effects of tDCS, likely due to the complexity of clinical pain conditions. Human experimental pain models that utilize indices of pain in response to well-controlled noxious stimuli can avoid many confounds that are present in the clinical data. This study aimed to investigate the effects of high-definition tDCS (HD-tDCS) stimulation over M1 on sensitivity to experimental pain and assess whether these effects could be influenced by the pain-related cognitions and emotions. A randomized, double-blinded, crossover, and sham-controlled design was adopted. A total of 28 healthy participants received anodal, cathodal, or sham HD-tDCS over M1 (1 mA for 20 min) in different sessions, in which montage has the advantage of producing more focal stimulation. Using a cold pressor test, several indices reflecting the sensitivity to cold pain were measured immediately after HD-tDCS stimulation, such as cold pain threshold and tolerance and cold pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings. Results showed that only anodal HD-tDCS significantly increased cold pain threshold when compared with sham stimulation. Neither anodal nor cathodal HD-tDCS showed significant analgesic effects on cold pain tolerance, pain intensity, and unpleasantness ratings. Correlation analysis revealed that individuals that a had lower level of attentional bias to negative information benefited more from attenuating pain intensity rating induced by anodal HD-tDCS. Therefore, single-session anodal HD-tDCS modulates the sensory-discriminative aspect of pain perception as indexed by the increased pain threshold. In addition, the modulating effects of HD-tDCS on attenuating pain intensity to suprathreshold pain could be influenced by the participant’s negative attentional bias, which deserves to be taken into consideration in the clinical applications.
- cold pain sensitivity
- high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS)
- primary motor cortex (M1)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience