Modulation of the human nociceptive flexion reflex by pleasant and unpleasant odors

Michelangelo Bartolo, Mariano Serrao, Zurab Gamgebeli, Marina Alpaidze, Armando Perrotta, Luca Padua, Francesco Pierelli, Giuseppe Nappi, Giorgio Sandrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nociceptive withdrawal reflex (NWR), a defensive response that allows withdrawal from a noxious stimulus, is a reliable index of spinal nociception in humans. It has been shown that various kinds of stimuli (emotional, visual, auditory) can modulate the transmission and perception of pain. The aim of the present study was to evaluate, by means of the NWR, the modulatory effect on the spinal circuitry of olfactory stimuli with different emotional valence. The magnitude of the NWR elicited by electrical stimulation of the sural nerve was measured while 18 subjects (9 women, 9 men) smelled pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral odors. The NWR was conditioned by odor probe with interstimulus intervals (ISIs) of 500 ms and 1,500 ms. The magnitude of NWR was significantly greater after the unpleasant odor probe (P

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2054-2059
Number of pages6
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Nociceptive withdrawal reflex Nociception Olfactory Odor olfactory stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology


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