Multiple representations of pain in human cerebral cortex.
The representation of pain in the cerebral cortex is less well understood than that of any other sensory system. However, with the use of magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography in humans, it has now been demonstrated that painful heat causes significant activation of the contralateral anterior cingulate, secondary somatosensory, and primary somatosensory cortices. This contrasts with the predominant activation of primary somatosensory cortex caused by vibrotactile stimuli in similar experiments. Furthermore, the unilateral cingulate activation indicates that this forebrain area, thought to regulate emotions, contains an unexpectedly specific representation of pain.