Electroencephalographic Predictors of Neuropathic Pain in Subacute Spinal Cord Injury


      It is widely believed that cortical changes are a consequence of longstanding neuropathic pain (NP). In this article, we demonstrate that NP in individuals with subacute spinal cord injury (SCI) has characteristic electroencephalography markers (EEG) that precede the onset of pain. EEG was recorded in a relaxed state and during motor imagination tasks in 10 able-bodied participants and 31 patients with subacute SCI (11 with NP, 10 without NP, and 10 who had pain develop within 6 months of EEG recording). All 20 patients with SCI initially without NP were tested for mechanically induced allodynia, but only 1 patient, who later had pain develop, reported an unpleasant sensation. The EEG reactivity to eye opening was reduced in the alpha band and absent in the theta and beta bands in the patients who later developed pain and was reduced in those who already had pain. Alpha band power was reduced at BA7 in both the relaxed state and during motor imagination in patients who either had or later developed pain compared with those without pain. All SCI groups had reduced dominant alpha frequency and beta band power at BA7. EEG reactivity to eye opening and reduced spontaneous and induced alpha activity over the parietal cortex were predictors of future NP, as well as markers of existing NP.
      Clinical Trial Registration Number: NCT02178917


      We demonstrate that brain activity in patients with subacute SCI reveals both early markers and predictors of NP, which may manifest before sensory discomfort. These markers and predictors may complement known sensory phenotypes of NP. They may exist in other patient groups suffering from NP of central origin.

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