Inhibitory effect of voluntary movement preparation on cutaneous heat pain and laser-evoked potentials

D. Le Pera, A. Brancucci, L. De Armas, C. Del Percio, R. Miliucci, C. Babiloni, D. Restuccia, P. M. Rossini, M. Valeriani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In our study, preparation of voluntary movement was used to physiologically activate the motor cortex areas and the effect of this activation on CO 2 laser-evoked potentials (LEPs) was explored. LEPs were recorded from 31 scalp electrodes in 10 healthy subjects after painful stimulation of the right C6-C7 skin dermatomes. LEP stimuli were delivered in the time interval between a visual warning stimulus followed after 1 s. by an imperative stimulus. The imperative stimulus triggered: (i) no task in the baseline condition (Pain); (ii) flexion-extension movements of the second finger of the right hand in the movement condition (Pain + Movement); (iii) cognitive task (mathematic computation) in the distraction condition (Pain + Cognition). The experimental conditions were also repeated during application of laser stimuli on the left C6-C7 skin dermatomes. Compared with the baseline condition (no task required), during preparation of right-hand voluntary movement there was a significant reduction in LEP amplitude and subjective pain rating after right- but not after left-hand stimulation, which suggests that the observed effect cannot be attributed to a nonspecific reduction in attention toward painful stimulus. During preparation of a cognitive task, LEP amplitude was reduced compared to baseline. Our results represent the first neurophysiological suggestion that physiological activation of the motor cortex, occurring during movement preparation, inhibits cortical pain processing by a centrifugal mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1900-1907
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


  • CNV
  • Cutaneous pain
  • Laser evoked potential
  • Motor programming
  • Pain-motor interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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