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Heat-Induced Pain Diminishes Vibrotactile Perception: A Touch Gate

Summary: Heat- Induced Pain Diminishes Vibrotactile Perception:
A Touch Gate
A. Vania Apkarian,*.t-1 Richard A. Stea,* and Stanley J. Bolanowskit
*Department of Neurosurgery, SUNY Health Science Center, Syracuse, New York 13210,
tlnstitute for Sensory Research, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244
Abstract The gate control theory of pain (Melzack and Wall, 1965) suggeststhat tactile
stimuli can decrease the perception of pain. We have found the reverse effect: Heat at
levels that induce pain can substantially suppress tactile sensitivity , independently of
shifts in attention or arousal. Ten human observers were stimulated by a tonic, pain-
producing heat stimulus and vibrotactile stimuli (1, 10, and 100 Hz) coincidentally
presented to the right thenar eminence. Vibrotactile thresholds were assessedwith the
skin at a normative temperature of 31C and at higher temperatures producing pain.
Increasesin vibrotactile thresholds (mean change = 7.3 dB) occurred at skin temperatures
just below and above those that induced pain. Furthermore, absolute-magnitude estimates
of suprathreshold vibrotactile stimuli determined during the same experiments showed
decreasedsensitivity and psychophysical recruitment. The changes are not attributable to
attentional or arousal shifts, since they were not associated with changes in auditory
thresholds. Furthermore, the changes occurred just below the subjects' pain thresholds
(where nociceptors arepresumably activated) .This over-twofold diminution of vibrotactile
sensitivity suggests that heat stimuli capable of inducing pain can significantly diminish


Source: Apkarian, A. Vania - Department of Physiology, Northwestern University


Collections: Biology and Medicine