Not as "blurred" as expected? Acuity and spatial summation in the pain system

Wacław M. Adamczyk, Tibor M. Szikszay, Tiffany Kung, Gabriela F. Carvalho, Kerstin Luedtke

4 Citations (Scopus)


ABSTRACT: Spatial acuity measured by 2-point discrimination (2PD) threshold and spatial summation of pain (SSp) are useful paradigms to probe the pain system in humans. Whether the results of these paradigms are influenced by different stimulus modalities and intensities is unclear. The aim of this study was to test 2PD controlling the stimulus modality and the intensity and to investigate the effect of modality on SSp. Thirty-seven healthy volunteers were tested for 2PDs with 2 stimulus modalities (electrocutaneous and mechanical) and intensity (noxious and innocuous). For each condition, participants received stimuli to either 1 or 2 points on their lower back with different distances (2-14 cm, steps of 2 cm). It was found that 2PDs were significantly smaller for noxious stimuli for both modalities. By contrast, between-modality comparison reproduced previous reports of impaired acuity for noxious stimulation. Higher pain intensities were reported when a larger area was stimulated (SSp), independent of the modality. Furthermore, reported pain intensities were higher when the distance between 2 stimulated areas was increased from 2 to 6 cm (P < 0.001), 8 cm (P < 0.01), and 14 cm (P < 0.01). 2PDs determined by mechanical and electrocutaneous stimuli were significantly correlated within both stimulus intensities, ie, innocuous (r = 0.34, P < 0.05) and noxious (r = 0.35, P < 0.05). The current results show 3 novel findings: (1) the precision of the pain system might be higher than in the innocuous (tactile) system when mechanical and electrocutaneous modalities are used, (2) the pattern of distance-based and area-based SSp seems to be comparable irrespective of the modality applied (mechanical and electrocutaneous), and (3) both modalities are moderately correlated.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)794-802
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2021

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-04 Physiology
  • 206-03 Experimental and Theoretical Neurosciences of Networks
  • 206-05 Experimental Models for Investigating Diseases of the Nervous System

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